The European Union's poultry industry should be able to benefit from relatively strong market fundamentals throughout 2012, according to Rabobank International's Poultry Quarterly report, with high beef prices and strong poultry demand combining with a potential modest downturn in feed costs during the year.

Poultry exports should expand through 2012, according to Rabobank, with increases to Asia, Africa and the Middle East leading the trend. European exporters are benefitting from a more structured approach to open markets and from a more competitive position compared to Brazil due to the Euro/Real exchange rate. In terms of imports, the EU has re-approved Thailand as an exporter to the EU poultry market beginning in the third quarter of 2012. Thailand is expected to use its 92,000-metric-ton quota, but the impact on local players should be negligible, as marketing standards should prohibit products from moving into the EU's fresh chicken market segment, said Rabobank. However, competition with other suppliers in the EU for processed products, especially from Brazil, Argentina and Chile, will intensify.

The biggest concern, according to Rabobank, is the current economic situation in Europe, especially in southern and eastern Europe. A weaker economy may lead consumers to trade down to chicken as the cheapest protein, or it may lead to reduced demand as consumers consume less protein overall.