French poultry production fell in the first quarter of 2014, yet the country’s demand for poultry meat continues to grow, with imports taking a greater share of the market. The French poultry sector is experiencing difficulties both at home and in international markets.

French poultry production fell sharply since the 1990s and the industry’s difficulties are continuing. Over the past decade, French production declined by an average of 2.3 percent each year, and this contraction was again evident over the opening months of 2014.

World poultry production has grown by an average of 3.8 percent per annum over the last 10 years. In the global market, French poultry producers have become increasingly uncompetitive, and on the home market a similar story has played out with French producers less able to compete against imports.

Despite these difficulties, however, the country remains Europe’s largest poultry producers if all species are considered, and the sector remains an important contributor to the economy with nearly 50,000 employees.

Poor start to the year

While 2013 may have been positive for French poultry production, figures released by France’s Ministry of Agriculture for the period show that the number or birds slaughtered from January to May this year stood at 382.5 million, while by weight the figure stood at 679,130 metric tons, decreases of 7.3 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively.

The number of broilers slaughtered was 8.7 percent lower while broiler meat produced contracted by 5.5 percent. The same data revealed that the number of turkeys slaughtered contracted by 0.4 percent while the number of ducks processed increased by 1.1 percent.

The figures reveal a continuing worsening from the first quarter when 440,000 metric tons was recorded, a contraction of 4 percent in comparison with the year before. The Ministry attributes much of this decline to reduced exports.

Consumption growing

Yet French poultry meat consumption grew by 4.6 percent during the first quarter to stand at 431,300 metric tons, up on 2013’s record high. Broiler meat consumption was up by 6.6 percent to 270,000 tons, turkey meat consumption rose by 2.6 percent to 87,000 tons, while duck meat sales fell by 4.5 percent to 46,600 tons, the Ministry notes.


Imports and exports

2014’s first quarter figures reveal a negative trade balance for meat and meat products. Exports have dropped sharply and imports continue to rise.

Overall poultry meat and poultry product imports stood at 136,000 metric tons, an increase of 3.4 percent over the quarter, while exports at 130,700 metric tons were 20 percent lower. As far as broiler meat and products are concerned, imports were 3.6 percent higher at 118,000 metric tons, while exports contracted by 20 percent to stand at 102,000 metric tons.

The situation is a marked turnaround from reports issued at the end of the first quarter last year, when poultry exports were described as “stable”.  Where imports are concerned, the main supplying countries were Germany, Spain, Belgium and Brazil.

Egg production

A stronger position has been recorded in French egg production, although growth has slowed this year compared to last. Over the first quarter, production of table eggs grew by 5 percent in comparison with the same period last year,

Exports of table eggs and egg grew by 1.2 percent over the first quarter, while imports contracted by 17 percent.

Stimulated by this upturn in the export market, the producer price of eggs was 9 percent higher in May this year in comparison to May 2013.