Antibiotic concerns depress Swedish demand for meat imports

By Gerard O’Dwyer, in Helsinki

- Last updated on GMT

The most siginificant reduction in Sweden's meat trade related to imports of beef and pork
The most siginificant reduction in Sweden's meat trade related to imports of beef and pork

Related tags Pork meat European union Sweden Beef Pork

Growing fears over the widespread use of antibiotics in farm animals helped to drive a fall in demand for imported meat in Sweden in the first half of 2014, but Russia’s EU food trade ban might reverse that trend, said experts.

The latest figures from the Swedish board of agriculture (Jordbruksverket) showed that year-on-year imports decreased by 7% for beef and by 6% for pork meat. By contrast, Swedish exports of beef and pork rose by 17% and 28% respectively in January-June, also year-on-year.

The most significant reduction in Sweden’s meat trade during the first half of 2014 related to the imports of pork and beef from Germany and Denmark. Fresh pork imports from Germany declined by 11% and Danish fresh pork cuts by 3% in January-June compared to the corresponding period in 2013. 

The share of domestic beef rose by 3.5% to 52.8% and pork by 0.1% to 68.5%, in the first six months of this year, year-on-year.

The running debate in Sweden over the use of antibiotics in farm animals contributed to the first half year’s figures, argued Åsa Öberg Lannhard, an analyst with Jordbruksverket’s trading and market department. "Sweden has the lowest use of antibiotics in the EU",​ matching consumer demand – where there is suspicion that imported meat may come from animals treated with excess antibiotics, she said.

The fall in imports, however, is a new phenomenon. Imports had been rising since 2010, a period of time when consumption of meat in Sweden increased, even as domestic production declined, she said. "This meant a higher proportion of the meat consumed in Sweden was imported. We are now seeing a relatively major change in the opposite direction. That said, it is too early to say if what is happening is a permanent reversal of trends,"​ Lannhard told GlobalMeatNews.

However, Sweden’s farmers’ federation, (LRF/Lantbrukarnas Riksförbund), is warning that domestic producers might see a resurgence in imported foreign meat products, due to Russia’s ban on EU food exports, leading to surplus EU meat production ending up on the meat counters of Sweden’s supermarkets and food vendors.

"When food producers in other EU countries cannot sell to Russia, naturally there is a risk that Swedish farmers may suffer if surplus production of pork, beef and chicken finds it way here. This will not only lead to lower prices in stores, but also reduced prices for farmers, and is a cause for concern,"​ said Helena Jonsson, president of the LRF.

The use of antibiotics was also a significant debate topic in Sweden leading up to the European Parliament elections in May 2014, with many candidates arguing for tighter restrictions.

Related topics Meat

Related news

Show more

Follow us


View more