The upward trend in the last few years was attributed to the difficulty to export calves, as well as the reduction of the dairy herd. But young bull and store cattle exports regained strength in 2011, meaning that fewer animals will be available for beef production in 2012.
Caroline Monniot, economist at the institute, told GlobalMeatNews: “It’s a return to the previous trend after two strong years. Production had been declining since the implementation of milk quotas in 1984, as a lot of the French beef production comes from dairy cows. The bluetongue disease outbreak between 2006 and 2009 forced us to keep our calves and store cattle instead of exporting them, which increased our steer and young bull production. As for females, last year we had a lot of cows, and, on top of that, France started reducing its dairy herd after 7 years of continuous increase. This year we start with less cows, and hopefully the herd decapitalisation should slow down.”
The suckler herd was down 3% at the beginning of this year, and cow slaughterings are expected to go down 4% in 2012, following a 7% increase in 2011. Store cattle exports are expected to stabilise or slightly decline, as demand from Italy slows down. The report also mentions that Spanish imports of French store cattle could go down if prices stay high in 2012.
“France will export less, because it will have less beef to export,” Monniot added. “It’s actually good timing, as the country’s two biggest clients, Greece and Italy, have been affected by the economic crisis, meaning shipping towards these two countries will slow down.”
Production of young bulls is expected to drop by 4% in 2012, due to the high number of store cattle exports at the end of 2011. This figure also depends on live animals exports to Turkey, which have been very dynamic but may decline in the second semester of 2012 as the country opens up its import market. Overall, nearly 160,000 young bulls could be exported across the globe, a 6% increase compared to 2011.
Bull and young bull slaughterings are expected to go down 5% in 2012, while bullock slaughterings will go back to normal, down 11% after two years of enhanced production. Calf slaughterings went down 2% in 2011 and this trend is expected to continue in 2012, due a drop in consumption linked to high retail prices.
This will lead to a 2.2% decrease in beef and veal consumption, after a previous 1.5% drop in 2011. “Beef consumption is what you get when you add national production to imports, and then deduct exports. Because demand is stronger elsewhere, and because world beef production is declining, the market has become very tense. Developing countries that are starting to consume more meat act as magnets that attract more and more of the global production and therefore influence consumption in developed countries like France,” Monniot said.