Conducted by the French consultancy Gira and commissioned by Invest NI and the Livestock and Meat Commission, the study highlighted growth opportunities in global markets over the next ten years.
However, the industry also faces numerous challenges – such as rising costs and changing consumer trends – prompting Invest NI to urge Northern Ireland’s meat industry to work on strategies to overcome these.
“This is one of the most significant documents that we have produced,” said Ian Murphy, Invest NI’s managing director of Clients and Entrepreneurship.
“What this study does clearly and concisely is highlight the opportunities, particularly in Europe, and the challenges our companies will face increasingly from global competitors from South America, China and the US and from rising input costs such as feed stuffs and energy, as well as from the sharpening focus, particularly among European consumers, on food safety and sustainability.”
Opportunities for meat
Presented to representatives from the meat processing industry, the study – Long-Term Strategic Trends in World Meat Markets 2010-2012 – highlighted new business opportunities in meat products, driven by rising populations. “Demand in the developing world, especially China, will increase for most meat products.”
The study forecast a continued growth particularly in poultry products.
“While other meats will also continue to grow in sales, poultry will gain the most market share. Poultry is described as the cheapest and easiest of the farmed meats to produce.”
EU growth will favour “cheaper, quicker growing species” with chicken continuing to win market share.
According to Invest NI, the study shows that meat companies must redouble their efforts to ensure efficiency, productivity and overall competitiveness.
Increased exports and innovation were also highlighted as crucial, particularly in areas such as higher value-added products for niche markets.
The report also identified the advantage that companies that guarantee food safety through greater control have over their supply chain globally.
“Our commitment is to continue to work with local companies to enable them to apply the relevant points in the study, to harness the opportunities ahead and to overcome the challenges especially in key areas such as costs,” said Invest NI.
Northern Ireland’s meat industry is currently thought to be worth around £1.5bn, and employs over 9,000 people. According to Invest NI, the meat industry currently contributes around 50 per cent of the £3bn earned by food processing in Northern Ireland.