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Analysis Chicken & Poultry

EU benefits from weak global chicken exports

Tuesday 3:00 pm - Matthijs Bremer

Slowly but surely, the poultry meat market is starting to normalize after a tough start to the year. Although the export of the United States still lags behind, Brazil has found growth again after a weak start. The situation turned out favorably for Europe. Against the trend, the export of poultry meat increased, although the Netherlands did not benefit from it.

So far, the global export market for poultry meat has been facing difficult waters. Various disruptions such as bird flu affected production in several major producing countries. This had significant consequences for exports, especially felt in the United States. According to a recent report by Rabobank, chicken meat exports from the United States in the first quarter of 2024 decreased compared to the same period last year. In total, exports decreased by 7.7%. Particularly, exports to China decreased. The bank attributes 80% of the decline to lower exports to the country. Overall, exports to the Asian country decreased by 55% due to a drop in demand.

The United States is certainly facing problems not only on the demand side of the market. Export to other major markets such as Mexico, Taiwan, Guatemala, Canada, and Angola also decreased. This is partly due to a lower poultry meat production that made prices less competitive. Overall, broiler production decreased by 0.2%.

Brazil recovers
The Brazilian poultry meat market faced even stronger challenges. In the first quarter, chicken meat exports decreased by 7.9%. In the first quarter of 2023, the country exported 1.314 million tons of chicken meat. Although the Brazilian meat sector association (ABPA) nuanced the decline, considering the particularly strong results of the previous year, a considerable part of the decline is also attributed to weaker Chinese demand. Additionally, outbreaks of bird flu also pressured Brazilian exports. The country struggled significantly with the animal disease during that period.

Meanwhile, exports have somewhat recovered. Due in part to the ongoing weak position of the United States, the South American country managed to restore its exports. Over the first five months of 2024, production was only 1.4% lower than the previous year. Recent data from ABPA shows that the country also achieved a stronger result in June compared to the previous year. Currently, exports are 0.8% higher than in June 2023.

Stronger Europe
The European Union benefited from the weak positions of Brazil and the United States. The European Union was spared major bird flu outbreaks, and it also helps that Europe traditionally is not a major chicken meat producer for the Chinese market. In the first four months of 2024, the European Union exported approximately 649,000 tons of poultry meat. This is an 11.3% increase compared to the same period the previous year. In that year, the European Union exported 583,000 tons. The European Union last achieved a similar result in 2021, with exports only about 300 tons lower.

Since then, European chicken meat exports have mostly declined due to higher standards for animal welfare and the environment. Additionally, Brazil has been taking over more Asian market share from the European Union during this period. Now that Brazil and the United States are facing some difficulties, the European Union has the opportunity to increase their exports again.

Netherlands and Poland
The majority of this export still comes from the two classic chicken exporters, Netherlands and Poland. In the first four months of the year, the Netherlands exported approximately 142,000 tons of chicken meat, accounting for 21.8% of the total Dutch exports outside the European Union. Poland exported about 245,000 tons of chicken meat, which is 37.7% of the exports to third countries.

However, the dynamics seem to be changing. While the Polish chicken exports to third countries have significantly increased, the Netherlands, despite the strong position in Europe, is exporting less poultry meat. In the first four months of 2024, the Netherlands exported approximately 142,000 tons of chicken meat. In 2022, exports were just under 151,000 tons. This represents a decrease of 6.3%. During the same period, exports from Poland increased from 189,000 tons to 245,000 tons, a 29.6% increase. This should not come as a surprise. While Poland has been scaling up its poultry meat sector for export year after year, the Netherlands, with the transition to chicken bearing the one-star Better Life label from the animal protection, is increasingly focusing on the domestic market. The additional space for Dutch chickens, in practice, comes at the expense of volumes historically sold on the world market.  

Matthijs Bremer

Matthijs Bremer is a market specialist in pork, beef, and poultry meat at DCA Market Intelligence. He also monitors the protein transition, keeping an eye on developments in cultured meat and meat substitutes.
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