GLOBAL POULTRY TRENDS 2013: Europe's Trade Closely Linked to Business between EU Countries

Trade in chicken meat is an active and slowly growing business in Europe but the majority of the trade is between European Union member states, writes industry analyst, Terry Evans.
calendar icon 9 October 2013
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Between 2000 and 2011, world exports of fresh/frozen chicken meat expanded by 5.5 per cent a year from 6.9 million tonnes to 12.5 million tonnes (Table 1). However, data from other sources indicate that while trade has continued to grow, the rate has slowed to around two per cent and possibly less in 2013.

When comparing the FAO trade data on chicken meat with those released by the USDA for broiler meat, it is important to remember that the USDA figures do not include trade between EU member countries.

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EU Member States Account for Most of Europe's Chicken Exports

Europe’s exports almost doubled in the 11 years from 1.8 million tonnes to 3.5 million tonnes when they represented around 28 per cent of the global total. While the volume traded between member countries more than doubled from 1.1 million tonnes to 2.3 million tonnes, the quantities sold to non-member countries increased by 310,000 tonnes or 44 per cent from 703,000 tonnes to 1.01 million tonnes.

In 2000, EU exports accounted for 99 per cent of the total for Europe. By 2011, this figure had slipped a little to 96 per cent although trade between EU member countries accounted for two-thirds of the total business conducted in Europe. While it is currently estimated that sales outside the Community will continue to amount to some million tonnes or so, no significant increase is envisaged in the near future.

In 2011, the leading fresh/frozen chicken meat exporters in the EU were the Netherlands (996,000 tonnes), France (426,000 tonnes), Belgium (408,000 tonnes), Poland (304,000 tonnes), Germany (288,000 tonnes), the United Kingdom (225,000 tonnes) and Spain (114,000 tonnes), these seven accounting for nearly 2.8 million tonnes or 80 per cent of the European total (Table 2 and Figure 1).

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Exports from The Netherlands expanded by almost 415,000 tonnes or 71 per cent in the period 2000 to 2011. In 2011, more than a quarter of Dutch chicken meat exports, or almost 267,000 tonnes, went to Germany followed by the UK with 209,000 tonnes, France with 92,000 tonnes, Belgium with 58,000 tonnes and South Africa with 35,000 tonnes.

France’s shipments in 2011 at 426,000 tonnes were only 11,000 tonnes or three per cent higher than in 2000. Unlike the other key exporters, France’s export trade is far more dependent on sales to the Middle East, these countries purchasing 232,000 tonnes (55 per cent of the total) with the key buyer, Saudi Arabia, taking 148,000 tonnes.

In July 2013, the EU suspended all export refunds on poultry. These had been paid almost exclusively to two French exporters of frozen whole broilers. These companies specialised in shipping small birds of less than 1kg to Middle East markets. In 2012, France earned the export subsidy on some 242,000 tonnes of whole birds of which, Saudi Arabia took 147,000 tonnes, the Yemen 38,000 tonnes and the United Arab Emirates 11,000 tonnes. The suspension of these subsidies is not expected to halt French frozen chicken exports to the Middle East but a cut-back of possibly 10 to 15 per cent is envisaged by some market observers.

Figure 1. Europe's leading chicken meat exporters

Although sales from Belgium expanded by 52 per cent, the gain in volume terms at 138,000 tonnes was less dramatic than that of the Netherlands. The main customers in 2011 were France (124,000 tonnes), the Netherlands (114,000 tonnes), Germany (35,000 tonnes) and the UK (27,000 tonnes).

The most aggressive marketer of chicken meat in Europe since 2000 has been Poland, where exports have increased 10-fold from around 31,000 tonnes to almost 304,000 tonnes in 2011. Six years earlier, Poland sold just over 101,000 tonnes to some 40 countries with Germany (22,000 tonnes), the UK (17,000 tonnes) and Belarus (11,000 tonnes) the main recipients. By 2011, sales of 304,000 tonnes were made to some 64 countries of which, the Czech Republic purchased 37,000 tonnes, the UK 33,000 tonnes, the Netherlands 29,000 tonnes, Germany 27,000 tonnes, Slovakia 24,000 tonnes, and Hong Kong 21,000 tonnes.

Although not among the leaders yet, Ukraine is making a serious push to expand exports, particularly to the EU. Back in 2000, sales amounted to less than 1,000 tonnes but by 2011, they came close to 50,000 tonnes, with Kazakhstan the top buyer purchasing some 22,000 tonnes followed by Viet Nam (8,000 tonnes), Moldova (7,000 tonnes) and the Russian Federation (5,000 tonnes). Ukraine has recently proposed a free-trade agreement with the Netherlands which, if ratified, would make it easier for this country to gain access to the EU (Table 3).

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European Chicken Meat Imports: Mostly Intra-EU Trade

At first sight, it looks as though Europe plays an important role in the global picture of chicken meat imports (Table 1). However, of the 2.8 million tonnes imported in 2011, some 2.2 million tonnes (79 per cent) were purchased by EU member states (Table 4 and Figure 2). Of that 2.2 million tonnes, only 137,000 tonnes (six per cent) were purchased from non-EU countries.

In 2011, nearly 1.4 million tonnes (62 per cent of the EU total) were bought by just four countries – the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and France.

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Biggest suppliers to the UK were the Netherlands with 167,000 tonnes, Ireland (60,000 tonnes), Poland (38,000 tonnes), Germany (25,000 tonnes) and Belgium (20,000 tonnes).

The Netherlands received some 110,000 tonnes from Belgium, 79,000 tonnes from the UK and surprisingly, 57,000 tonnes from Brazil, while Germany supplied 53,000 tonnes.

The leading supplier to Germany was the Netherlands with 172,000 tonnes in 2011, followed by Belgium (28,000 tonnes), Poland (25,000 tonnes) and France (22,000 tonnes).

France took some 106,000 tonnes from Belgium, 82,000 tonnes from the Netherlands, 40,000 tonnes from Germany and 26,000 tonnes from the UK. Poland again featured with 19,000 tonnes.

The Netherlands (73,000 tonnes), France (25,000 tonnes) and the UK (14,000 tonnes) made the biggest contribution to Belgium’s total imports of 132,000 tonnes.

However, the Russian Federation continues to be the largest importer in Europe – but only just. Purchases rose from 580,000 tonnes in 2000 to a peak of some 1.2 million tonnes a year between 2005 and 2007 (Table 4/8). But, since then, imports have contracted to only 384,000 tonnes in 2011. In 2011, the US was the major supplier, shipping some 253,000 tonnes followed by Brazil with 62,000 tonnes and Germany with 24,000 tonnes.

Data presented in a USDA GAIN Report reveals that Russia’s broiler meat imports fell from 619,000 tonnes in 2010 to less than 390,000 tonnes in 2011, this trend being reversed to 457,000 tonnes in 2012. Shipments from the US have slumped from almost 850,000 tonnes in 2008 to 240,000 tonnes in 2011, recovering to 263,000 tonnes in 2012. Over that same period, supplies from Brazil reduced from 162,000 tonnes to 62,000 tonnes. Early estimates for 2013 point to a six per cent decline in Russia’s broiler imports.

Figure 2. Europe's leading chicken meat importers

October 2013

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