A positive outlook for 2016
First some good news: since mid-january, no new cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza have been reported in France. The southwest region of this gourmet country was hit hard last December. The H7N8 virus struck right in the middle of this area, where 70 percent of the foie gras production is located. The virus spread rapidly, and 69 duck and geese farms became infected.
The French government took stringent measures to curb the spread of the virus. As from January 18, producers in the southwest were forbidden to place new, day-old ducklings or goose chicks on their farms. This measure was extended
to chicks up to 4 weeks old as from February 8. From 1 April, no one in that region is allowed to place any new waterfowls on their farms.
This compulsory vacancy period must guarantee that the Ai-virus will be definitely eradicated. The measures will remain in force until mid2016, which gives the fatty liver-producers enough time to restore production before the festive season. Hurray - I guess, as I’ve never ever consumed foie gras in my life. Perhaps I miss out on some wonderful delicacy, but I never felt like I was missing something…
But that aside. Way more important is Rabobank’s outlook on the EU poultry meat market for this new year, which has already entered February. According to the bank’s visionaries, the European market for poultry meat is in balance, and in a positive mood. Thanks to a falling production in The Netherlands (minus 10 percent in Q4-2015, compared to Q42014) and Germany (minus 5 percent). The reason for this decline is the trend to lower capacity utilisation in these markets. This due to the emergence of various poultry meat concepts, aimed to increase animal welfare and to please consumers. All those new, slower growing welfare chickens get more living space, so less kg’s are produced per square meter.
And of course, all poultry producers in the 27 countries of our wonderfully united European Union follow the good example of Hans and Heinz, the most respectable boys in class…? Alas.
The decline in production is directly compensated by an increase in production in Poland (+ 6 percent), Hungary (+ 5 percent) and Spain (+ 5 percent). Where, as you might guess, the living conditions for broilers are not quite te same as in ‘civilised’ Northwestern Europe. So we keep less broilers, but in better circumstances, while they keep more chicks under worse conditions. As the illustrious Dutch soccer icon Johan Cruijff would say in his unrivalled logic: ‘Elk voordeel heb z’n nadeel’, or ‘every advantage has its disadvantage’.
Well, anyway, Rabobank considers the prospects for the European poultry meat industry moderately positive – provided we balance the supply growth in Eastern Europe with the demand. Demand for poultry meat is definitely on the rise, but as pork prices are currently very low, that might generate some competition. Feed prices are stable at a comfortably low level. So all in all, prospects are not too bad. But the growing production is challenging.¡