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GLOBAL POULTRY TRENDS 2012 - Little Growth Forecast in Europe's Human Population

19 September 2012, at 12:00am

As population growth in European countries is forecast to be modest in coming years, any increase in chicken consumption will depend on real income growth, changes in the price differentials between chicken and other meats and shifts in social attitude to eating, according to Terry Evans in his latest forecast for trends in chicken meat consumption in the region.

On a global basis, the growth in the human population is one of the key factors that virtually guarantees an increase in domestic chicken consumption in the future. This is not the case for producers based in Europe, however, as in this region population growth between now and 2020 is expected to increase at less than 0.1 per cent a year as the total climbs by just four million from the current estimate of 740.2 million to 744.2 million. Consequently, increases in demand will mainly depend on real income growth, especially among the poorer sections of the community, changes in the price differentials between chicken and its competitors and social features such as changing attitudes to eating.

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For the European Union, the position is marginally brighter in terms of changes in the population, which is expected to expand by almost eight million - equivalent to a growth of 0.2 per cent a year - by 2020 to reach 511 million. The EU represents some 68 per cent of the population of Europe, this percentage increasing a little to 69 per cent by 2020.

According to forecasts made by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), while total meat utilisation in the EU in 2012 is expected to decline a little, the uptake of poultry should rise a shade at the expense of small reductions in the consumption of beef and pig meat. As chicken demand will benefit little from a human population growth, while there will be changes in the chicken uptake in individual EU countries, growth prospects for chicken consumption in the EU as a whole are small.

With regard to poultry meat consumption, the European Commission (EC) presents a slightly different view, considering that utilisation in the EU could actually decline by 0.4 per cent in 2012 to 11.69 million tonnes and while the organisation foresees a recovery of 0.3 per cent in 2013 to 11.72 million tonnes, this would still fail to match the 2011 record uptake of 11.73 million tonnes.

At the end of 2011, the EC's 'Prospects for agricultural markets and income in the EU 2011 to 2020' average poultry meat consumption in the EU was forecast to rise by some 3.5 per cent to reach 23.6kg per person in 2020 compared with an estimate of 22.8kg for 2012. For the EU of 15 (member states before 1 May 2004) the average uptake was forecast to rise from an estimated 21.9kg for 2012 to 22.7kg in 2020. In the EU of 12, the corresponding figures are 26kg and 27kg per person. Although the per-capita increase is greater in those countries in the EU-12, because the EU-15 countries represents nearly three-quarters of the Community's population, this group will account for 558,000 tonnes (85 per cent) of the anticipated expansion in total consumption in the EU of some 656,000 tonnes between now and 2020. However, in the short-term outlook released in June 2012, the estimate of the uptake per person for the whole of the EU had been increased to 23.2kg for 2012, but was expected to remain at that level for 2013. Regardless of the actual figures, the EC considers that poultry consumption will continue grow and expand its share of EU meat consumption.

In the current economic climate, it would not be surprising to see consumers, especially in southern and eastern Europe, switching to what they consider to be the lowest cost meat protein. A further stimulant to demand could occur among those who consider chicken to be a healthier meat. Indeed, the healthy image enjoyed by chicken meat is also likely to be an important factor in stimulating demand in developed economies.

The data for consumption in Russia again underlines the point of how figures differ according to source, sometimes quite markedly. However, all estimates of chicken meat uptake in Russia point to continued growth for the foreseeable future. According to the US-based Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI), the average consumption of broilers in Russia in 2010 stood at 17.7kg per person, increasing to 19.7kg in 2011. For 2012, a slight rise to 19.9kg has been postulated though by 2020, this figure is expected to increase to 22.1kg. USDA figures put broiler consumption currently at around 23kg against 21kg in 2010. In 2012, it is estimated that total poultry meat usage in Russia will amount to some 3.5 million tonnes which, for a population of a little less than 143 million, would be equivalent to around 24.5kg per person. By 2014, per-capita uptake is expected to have risen to 27.7kg, while for 2020, the target is 30kg.

It is generally considered that, despite poultry being price-competitive, consumption in Russia is being constrained by low incomes. So, further increases in consumer purchasing power across all sectors of the community will be essential before everyone can buy the quantities they would like. An argument in favour of Russia continuing to import relatively cheap US chicken leg portions is that access to such items gives low-income consumers a taste for chicken that could well be expanded in line with future improvements in their disposable incomes. According to a USDA GAIN Report, meat prices in Russia in 2011 (excepting boneless cuts) moved as follows: beef up almost 22, pork up eight per cent, while poultry prices hardly moved (up 0.1 per cent). At the same time, salaries rose by 3.5 per cent and the rate of annual inflation fell to a record low of six per cent. These factors combined to give impetus to poultry purchases at the expense, in particular, of pork.

Low purchasing power is also a major factor limiting poultry uptake in the Ukraine. Of interest is that back in 1990, 100 per cent of broilers were sold whole but by 2010, the split between sales of portions and whole birds was 40:60. According to FAPRI, broiler consumption in the Ukraine stood at 17.5kg per person in 2010 rising to 18.7kg in 2012 while the forecast for 2020 is 23.4kg.

September 2012