Italy’s poultry producers saw mixed results in 2018

While output in the Italian poultry sector contracted in 2018, demand for value-added products saw the Italian poultry producers generate higher revenues.

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sorbis | Bigstock.com
sorbis | Bigstock.com

After years of expansion, Italian poultry meat production fell slightly last year to 1.32 million tons, a decrease of 2.9% in comparison with 2017.

The decline was most notable in the chicken industry which, at 934,000 tons, saw output contract by 3.7%. For turkey producers, the decrease was lower at 2.6%, meaning that output ended 2018 at 301,000 tons. The only sector to record a production increase last year was “minor species,” which saw output grow by 5.3%.

While the volume of poultry meat in Italy last year declined, this did not translate into a fall in the sector’s revenues, due to Italian consumers’ increasing preference for value-added products, raw and cooked, and industry association Unaitalia notes that the outlook for the sector remains positive.

Unitalia said the fall in consumption is primarily attributable to weaker demand from the hotel restaurant and catering sectors, while household consumption was more positive, up slightly by volume, 0.6%, and rising by value a more substantial 3.6%.

An established preference for chicken meat in Italy saw the meat retain its top spot among meat by per capita consumption, even if there was a 2.5% decrease to 201.4 kg per person. While consumers have eaten slightly less chicken overall, consumption of processed products recorded strong growth with sales in this segment growing by 9.3% in volume and by 10% in value, the latter helping to compensate for the overall 1.5% decline in volume sales across poultry products.

2018 ended with chicken prices increasing by 3.3% and turkey prices by 1.5%.

Looking specifically at sales through larger retail outlooks reveals where sales of prepared raw chicken, breaded cooked products and other cooked specialty products are concerned: By volume, sales in this category increased by 6.2%, while by value they were 4.7% higher, as consumers searched for easy-to-prepare, quality products and new introductions.

Italy was 106% self-sufficient in poultry meat last year, covering 103.2% of its chicken meat requirements and 121.2% of demand for turkey meat.

Italian Poultry Meat Consumption 2017 2018 1

Sales of poultry meat contracted slightly last year. However, the outlook for the industry remains positive.

Exports and imports

Over the past decade, Italy has become a poultry meat exporter, and growing exports is now seen as essential.

In 2018, foreign markets absorbed 13.5% of production, or 13.5% of total output. However, this percentage was lower than that recorded in 2017, when 13.9% of the country poultry meat production was sent abroad.

Italy’s poultry meat exports have been declining for several years after initial strong growth. While Unaitalia says this not a cause for concern, it is calling for faster progress in ongoing trade discussions and for greater support from government bodies.

European Union countries are the primary destinations for Italian poultry meat, accounting for more than two-thirds of shipments. Germany is the largest export destination, taking 42% of the total, followed by France and Greece. Africa is an important destination, taking 24%.

However, the sector is keen to enter markets further afield and its main focus is on China, Russia and South Africa. However, efforts are also been made to sell into Tunisia, Morocco, Vietnam and South Korea, along with Canada and Japan.

Imports account for only a small percentage of poultry meat sales in Italy, yet are seen as a growing threat, particularly as they are principally of higher-value product, which may penalize home-market producers. Imports stood at 95,100 tons last year, down from 97,900 tons in 2017.

Italy’s poultry and egg producers were also affected by avian influenza last year, recording 45 outbreaks of the disease between October 2017 and June 2018. This was reported to have affected a large number of egg and poultry meat producers, resulting in a loss of production of hatching eggs, eggs for consumption, live birds and poultry meat.

Egg production

The influence of changing consumer tastes is affecting Italy’s egg producers even more than it is the country’s poultry meat producers.

As in the broiler sector, output in Italy’s egg industry contracted slightly last year, but the value of sales rose as consumers sought out higher-value eggs and more retailers and food companies pledged to stop sourcing eggs produced in cages.

The Italian egg industry produced 12.25 billion eggs last year, close to 770,000 tons, a contraction of 2.7%. This year, however, there are more positive signals coming from the sector, and output is forecast to rise by 1.2%. The country is 97.3% self sufficient for eggs.

Italian Poultry Sector At A Glance 2

Italy was more than self sufficient in poultry meat last year and close to being so for eggs.

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