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With African Swine Fever (ASF) set to restrict global growth in animal proteins, New Zealand red meat producers can look forward to continued strong pricing for their beef and sheepmeat exports in the coming year, according to Rabobank’s just released Global Animal Protein Outlook 2020.

In the bank’s flagship annual outlook for the animal proteins sector, Seeking Opportunities in an Uncertain World, Rabobank says while production growth is expected in most regions in 2020, “the impact of ASF in Asia overwhelms the outlook”, as China’s production losses exceed the growth in all other regions combined. Chinese pork production is expected to decline by a further 10 to 15 per cent from 2019 levels and, while less than the decline in 2019, the report says it will ensure 2020 production is well below the 2014-18 average, prior to the major ASF outbreak. Pulling down overall growth, the report says, ASF brings uncertainty to the global animal protein outlook alongside trade disputes, sustainability developments and the ongoing rise of alternative proteins.  

New Zealand

Rabobank animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate (pictured) said the pork supply gap created by ASF had been a key factor in the surge of New Zealand beef exports into China during 2019, and this trend was set to extend into 2020. 

“Another significant jump in Chinese demand for New Zealand beef products is forecast over the next 12 months, further cementing China’s recently-acquired position as our largest export market for beef products. And, with this growth continuing to put upward pressure on export returns, we expect to see farmgate pricing at levels equal to, or above, those received in 2019,” he said. 

“In the US – our second largest market for beef – we also anticipate good returns in 2020 due to a combination of limited availability of New Zealand beef supplies and an expected easing of the New Zealand dollar.” According to the report, New Zealand’s beef production is expected to increase marginally in 2020, lifting by approximately two per cent. On the sheepmeat front, the report says New Zealand farmgate prices are forecast to remain at record levels, while production is set to increase slightly.

“In-market pricing for New Zealand lamb is expected to remain firm in most key export markets during 2020 and any favourable movement in the exchange rate is likely to push export returns higher,” Holgate said. “As with beef production, we expect to see a very slight lift in New Zealand sheepmeat production with slaughter numbers in 2020 anticipated to increase to around 19 million head.” Despite the largely rosy outlook for New Zealand’s red meat producers, the reports says freshwater and climate change reforms pose a key challenge for the  sector in the year ahead, while the Brexit process looms as another potential downside risk which could result in reduced access to the UK/ EU market.

Global outlook 

The report says while total animal protein production growth (across both land and aquatic species) will be positive for the key regions – the ASEAN-5 nations, Brazil, China, the European Union, North America and Oceania – in 2020, it is after a year of strong decline in 2019.   Poultry and aquaculture will lead production growth, the report says, while beef will be stable and wild-catch seafood will again decline. But “all of these changes are minor compared with the production decline in pork”, the report says.

“We expect to see strong increases in animal protein production in both North America and Brazil, however, this will not be enough to offset the massive fall in pork production resulting from ASF,” Holgate said.  The report warns ASF is likely to spread to new countries in 2020, due to frequent shipments of feed and live animals – as well as the movement of people and equipment – across borders, but says “we do not expect new countries to experience the same level of impact as China and Vietnam”.  As such, the herd loss caused by ASF in 2020 is expected to be lower than in 2019, as recovery extends well into the 2020s, it says.

Holgate says that while ASF is the key contributor of uncertainty in global animal proteins markets, there is also uncertainty stemming from trade disputes, sustainability developments and the ongoing rise of alternative proteins.  “Trade issues including the US-China trade war, Brexit, Brazil’s access to chicken export markets and the ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement are all causes of doubt in global animal protein trade, with the first two of these most likely to impact farmers in this part of the world,” he said.

The report also highlights developments in sustainability, and flags this issue will shape the growth of animal production and consumption through the 2020s.

“2030 is a benchmark year for achieving a number of global sustainability targets including reductions in greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris accord and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.” Holgate said. “And with 2030 now only a decade away, we expect to see actions being taken by participants along the animal protein supply chain to achieve these goals.” The growth of alternative proteins is further issue which the report says has the potential to impact animal protein markets.

“Globally we’re seeing strong growth in meat alternatives, however, at this stage, they’re not stealing growth from animal protein and are instead adding to total protein consumption volumes,” Holgate said.


The report also highlights opportunities in global animal protein saying “the most obvious area of opportunity is recovery from ASF, which, in our view, will extend well into the 2020s.” Other opportunities cited in the report include “winning on sustainability” by harnessing the supply chain and moving ahead of market signals as well as, investing to secure ongoing trade flows to reduce some of the uncertainty and secure continuous market access. <

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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