Northern Ireland’s £1.5 billion meat industry must work on strategies that will reduce costs and increase its ability to exploit opportunities that will grow in Europe and other global markets over the next decade.
The business opportunities and threats, including rising feed and other costs, as well as consumer trends facing the local industry, which employs over 9,000 people, were highlighted today in a major study by GIRA, a leading French consultancy specialising in the global meat industry, commissioned by Invest Northern Ireland in conjunction with the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC).
Details of the study were presented by GIRA lead consultant Richard Brown to senior representatives from all the local beef, poultry, pigmeat and sheepmeat processing companies at a workshop held at Invest NI’s Belfast headquarters.
Commenting on the 117-page study, ‘Long-Term Strategic Trends in World Meat Markets 2010-2012’, Ian Murphy, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Clients and Entrepreneurship, said: “This is one of the most significant documents that we have produced because meat processing is vitally important here in terms of the scale of its contribution to the local economy, especially rural communities, in areas such as exports, new product development and, of course, employment. Currently the industry contributes around 50 per cent of the £3 billion earned by food processing here.
“Ensuring its long-term growth, therefore, is immensely important to Invest Northern Ireland and, of course, to the wider community. What this study does clearly and concisely is highlight the opportunities, particularly in Europe, and the challenges our companies will face increasingly from global competitors from South America, China and the US and from rising input costs such as feed stuffs and energy, as well as from the sharpening focus, particularly among European consumers, on food safety and sustainability.
“Our companies should draw great encouragement, however, from a number of points in the study. There is good news for our companies in terms of the protection provided against competition in the EU with its agri-food and environmental policies.
‘It also highlights new business opportunities especially in poultry, one of our strengths, pigmeat and beef and the good reputation our companies enjoy with key retailers which are increasingly developing their international presence. What companies must do is to redouble their efforts to ensure efficiency, productivity and overall, exports, innovation in areas such as higher value added products for niche markets, and overall competitiveness. For instance, the report identifies the advantage that companies that guarantee food safety through greater control have over their supply chain globally.
“Our commitment is to continue to work with local companies to enable them to apply the relevant points in the study, to harness the opportunities ahead and to overcome the challenges especially in key areas such as costs.”
Among the key points in the study are the projected continuing growth in poultry products. Demand for most meat products will be driven by rising populations.
While other meats will also continue to grow in sales, poultry will gain the most market share. Poultry is described as the cheapest and easiest of the farmed meats to produce. Demand in the developing world, especially China, will increase for most meat products.
EU growth will favour “cheaper, quicker growing species” with chicken continuing to win market share.
Forces driving change in the industry were likely to include: increasing animal welfare concerns which would mean higher costs, higher oil prices, currency volatility, rising costs as sustainability grows in importance, and nutrition concerns among consumers and governments.
Production in some regions will be impacted adversely by issues such as water shortage and land degradation.