The decades-long trend of increasing farm production at EU level is set to end over the coming years, as the output of beef, milk and cereals are expected to flatten.
The EU’s Agricultural Outlook report for 2022-2032 states that a “new phase” of farm production is on the way, where EU growth in livestock and tillage production stops.
The EU’s milk pool is expected to stabilise, before contracting “slightly” as increasing milk yields are no longer able to outpace reducing cow numbers.
It is anticipated that sustainability measures will see dairy cow numbers fall by around 10% over the next decade and the rate at which cow yields grow will fall to half of its current pace.
Farmgate milk prices are said to be heading to a new normal over the next 10 years, with milk prices to settle somewhere between the record prices of recent months and the average paid out in previous years.
A smaller EU dairy herd and a 6% fall in the suckler herd by 2032 will reduce beef output. Changing consumer preferences and policies of extensification will also act to restrict supplies.
The combined effect is said in the report to be a 0.6m tonne drop in beef supplies.
Global beef demand will rise by around 1.3m tonnes, as “many countries” seek to fill supply shortfalls over this time.
Coupled payments and certain suckler-friendly eco scheme options will only “dampen” the decline in the beef sector and not reverse it, the report maintains.
International beef prices are expected to soften, leaving the average EU beef price sitting around the €4/kg mark in 10 years’ time.
The report suggested that tillage production will stagnate due to climate change, lower pesticide usage and reduced fertiliser applications. A growing organic sector will also press yields downwards.
Barley is likely to see a slight decrease in average yields over the coming decade, while wheat is expected to see a marginal lift.
The EU should remain self-sufficient in these grains over this time.
A lower feed demand is expected to result from cuts to livestock numbers and a move towards less extensive farming systems for the livestock farms that remain.
Meat consumption is also predicted to be on a downward trend in Europe, the only region in the world which the report expects to see such a reversal in consumption.
The average European could be eating 0.8kg less of beef per year and swapping pigmeat for poultry.
Plant-based alternatives to meat are anticipated to account for only a “very small” share of the protein market.