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Drought Affects French Beef Markets

04 July 2011

FRANCE - Drought has gripped much of northern Europe this year. In France, this has resulted in higher cattle disposals as farmers look to market their animals sooner on account of feed scarcity.

Recent statistics from Agreste reveal that production in France, the EU’s largest beef producer, has risen by 7.7 per cent for the first 4 months of the year, to almost 465,000 tonnes. There has been an increase in all slaughter categories, with young bull numbers 6.2 per cent higher, while cows rose 6.7 per cent.

Another consequence of the feed scarcity was that live cattle exports also increased by 7.5 per cent during the same period. This reflects higher numbers of young animals sold along with reduced demand from domestic buyers. Average prices received for U grade Charolais and Limousin weanling bulls are running almost €0.20/kg behind last year’s levels, at €2.45/kg liveweight.

Consumption of beef by French consumers has been disappointing in comparison with previous years. Figures from Kantar recorded a decline of 4.1 per cent in beef volumes sold at retail up to the middle of May compared with the corresponding period last year, although average prices were slightly higher. Reduced consumption and higher production meant that there was a greater volume of beef available for export. French beef exports grew by 24 per cent in the January to April period when almost 77,000 tonnes of product were exported. Principal markets were Italy and Greece, followed by Germany and Turkey.

It is worth remembering that France is the second most important market for Irish beef exports, after the UK. While the French market accounted for over 54,000 tonnes in 2010, exports for Jan-Apr this year have been 18 per cent lower (Source CSO). This decline is a consequence of abundant French supplies as well as lower cattle supplies here in Ireland. While rain in recent weeks may have brought some recovery, feed issues in France may continue to cause higher cattle supplies in the coming months.

French Processor Throughput ('000 head/month)


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