Good for the barbecue, tough on producers

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Consumers should see more favorable prices at the meat counter this year. There will be continued downward pressure on global meat prices during 2017, according to a report from the Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory Group.

Among the changes in the world market, some consistencies are evident. Rabobank predicts that China will continue to exert a huge influence on global meat markets. The world’s most populous country increased pork imports to record levels in 2016 and Rabobank forecasts these import levels will remain constant this year. China’s beef and poultry imports are also expected to rise.

In the U.S., production is expected to continue growing, but consumers’ appetites are being tested as record levels are reached. The strong dollar and uncertainty over future trading relationships with China and Mexico create potential headwinds for American producers. The U.S. is a leading exporter of pork to China.

Justin Sherrard, Rabobank’s animal protein global strategist, said: “In a market driven by supply, we expect prices to come under pressure—a boon to consumers but a clear challenge for producers and processors. With rising demand, we forecast that China will maintain its 2016 record levels of pork imports next year and could increasingly seek something akin to ‘imports-plus,’ locking in supply as it targets food safety and security for its growing population. Meanwhile, U.S. producers head into 2017 grappling with potential changes to the country’s trade policy and further currency movements. Indeed, with worldwide currency fluctuations depending on political machinations as well as central bank decisions, we are becoming accustomed to expecting the unexpected.”

Elsewhere, Rabobank predicts an increasingly complex production market, making it more challenging for producers to exploit opportunities. They may come under additional pressure to adapt their systems to mitigate threats including the focus on antibiotics use, the attention on livestock as a source of greenhouse gases and growing retailer competition.


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