Regrettably, most industrial operations were impacted last year by the COVID-19, and the poultry industry was not the exception. In the European Union plus the United Kingdom (EU-27+UK), a decline of 1.5% in poultry production was reported by the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Several governments imposed different closures and lockdowns that impacted mainly hotels, restaurants, and institutions (HRI) during the pandemic. Consequently, many businesses from this industry sector were affected, leading to a low demand for chicken meat. Poland was the most affected country because its industry focuses on exporting chicken meat to the HRI sector within the EU. Some other countries, such as Spain, suffered the economic effects of tourism closures because of high infection rates. Countries like the Netherlands that presented softer measures to contain the virus’s spread also decreased production compared to France, Spain, or Italy.
According to the last Poultry and Products Semi-Annual report, the EU is forecasted to increase poultry production by 1.4% from 2020.
However, the GAIN and the USDA have informed that some production growth limitations are observed. The reduced availability of production licenses due to phosphate emissions and higher regulations in sustainability and welfare methods may increase production costs, limiting the flocks’ size and, consequently, production growth.
On the other hand, the expansion of organic and free-range markets surged after industrials in Italy and France redirected the production that was intended for the HRI sector to the retail market. This movement allowed Italy and France to increase the domestic production slightly.
The total production in several countries was not impacted by the closures of slaughter plant facilities because of COVID-19 cases. Mainly Netherlands, Germany, and UK were able to compensate for the lost weeks of production with higher slaughter rates after re-opening.
Currently, the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) threatens meat production in the EU except for Germany. The latter has enforced strict sanitary measures to mitigate the effect of the disease in poultry productions. Some other countries increased surveillance programs, biosecurity controls, and prohibited free-range farms temporarily.
It is expected that COVID vaccination programs and the lifting of the lockdowns improve the market conditions to increase production by 1.4%. However, there is still a chance that higher feed prices, more severe environmental regulations, and elevated labor costs slow down the poultry production growth for 2021.
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