Poultry the bright spot in 2021 global meat trade

Poultry will be one of the key performers in international meat trade this year.

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Tryaging | iStock.com
Tryaging | iStock.com
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Global poultry meat exports are expected to end the year 2021 slightly higher compared to 2020. While the international market for meat is expected to end the year flat, shipments of poultry meat and beef will be the exception. The latest Food Outlook report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), suggests that exports of poultry meat will end 2021 at 15.6 million metric tons (MT) an increase of 0.9%.

The FAO believes that, in particular, demand will be driven by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ukraine, Japan, Mexico and the European Union (EU). However, alongside these increases other markets will import less. China, South Africa, the Russian Federation and the U.K. are all expected to source less chicken meat from overseas this year.

A number of factors are behind these changes. For example, where Saudi Arabia and the UAE are concerned, the FAO  notes that higher imports will be driven by the possible revival of tourism and the return of foreign workers. The hotel and restaurant sector, together with the two countries’ migrant workforces, account for 60% of imported chicken consumption.

Imports of chicken by Japan are likely to recover from the contraction experienced last year, reflecting, on the one hand, rising consumer demand and, on the other the rising costs of home-produced chicken meat.

In other markets, the report’s authors note that lower household incomes, due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, may drive consumers to purchase more poultry meat due to affordability in comparison with alternatives, and so trigger more imports.

Not all countries, however, will see their imports rise. Those countries predicted to see lower imports this year include China, South Africa and the Russian Federation, which are seeing rising national production outpacing increases in consumer demand.

In China, for example, overall meat production is forecast to exceed 83 million MT, up 6.5% on 2020. Its meat imports across animal proteins will remain high, but below those recorded in 2020, while total meat production will still be below the levels achieved pre-pandemic. Eighty percent of the growth in China’s meat output will be in the swine sector, making consumer access to the country’s favorite meat easier.

Where South Africa is concerned, the country is not only producing more chicken meat, but higher tariffs may depress imports.

In the U.K., still limited foodservice sales will limit the need to import.  

Meeting demand

Brazil, Thailand and the European Union are likely to be the main beneficiaries of 2021’s increase in demand for imported poultry meat.

Brazil is benefitting from a number of advantages in international markets. Not only does it export at highly competitive prices, but it also benefits from being free from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Additionally, it is able to provide halal certified chicken required by some countries in the Middle East, East Asia and Africa.

Where Thailand is concerned, the country may benefit from expected rising demand for ready to eat poultry products as food service gradually returns to normal and restaurants are able to stay open for longer in the EU and Japan, for example.

Exports from the EU may recover slightly in response to growing demand from Ukraine and some African countries. Nevertheless, the outlook remains uncertain due to possible export bans due to HPAI and additional anti-dumping duties in South Africa.

In contrast, exports from the U.K., the U.S., Ukraine, the Republic of Korea and Belarus are expected to decline, the result changes in the their target in their target markets, for example economic downturns or rising home production, or slimmer margins making exports less attractive.

Chicken Banquet 2

The gradual reopening of restaurants and foodservice as 2021 progresses is likely to increased demand for chicken meat and, in some markets, increase the need for imports.  | Rouzes I iStock.com

Global poultry meat output

The FAO forecasts that global poultry meat output in 2021 will grow by 1.3% to 135 million MT, mainly driven by gains in China, Brazil and the EU, but with moderate expansion anticipated worldwide.

Global production increases are anticipated due to higher demand for affordable meat, especially in those countries where household incomes continue to be lower than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s high production stems from increased consumer demand, and significant investment has gone into the sector.

In Brazil, strong demand from overseas, especially from East Asia and the Middle East, is driving production growth, however, on its home market Brazil is seeing weak demand.

Long-hoped-for relaxations in travel restrictions and physical distancing in the EU may result in rising production there, however, producers will be constrained by higher feed costs and efforts to reduce excess use of nutrients.

Across all meat types, production is expected to grow by 2.2 percent this year to 346 million MT, with Brazil, Vietnam, the U.S. and EU witnessing the strongest growth. However, at a global level, this will be offset slightly by likely declines in Australia, the Philippines and Argentina.

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