European Union production growth is projected to be less than 1 percent in 2014 and 2015, according to the European Commission’s “Winter 2014 Short Term Outlook for Arable Crops, Meat and Dairy Markets in the European Union” and reported in the “International Egg and Poultry Review” April 1 edition issued by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Poultry meat consumption should continue increasing because of its price competitiveness with other meats in a “fragile economic context.” Poultry production continued expanding in 2013 with Germany and Poland as the main contributors (+2 percent and +8 percent respectively, compared with 2012). Poultry meat production grew by 1.7 percent in 2013 compared with 2012 (from 12.64 million metric tons to 12.85 million metric tons).

The European Union is a net poultry meat exporter. Exports and imports both declined in 2013. The European Union exports less popular cuts, like wings, and imports more popular cuts, like breasts. In 2013, an increasing share of exports went to Saudi Arabia and South Africa (24 percent of the total poultry meat exports compared with 21 percent in 2012). Exports to Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus were all lower (-18 percent, -28 percent, and -38 percent respectively). Exports to Russia slowed because of the Russian government policy to improve self-sufficiency. Increased competition from Brazil on the world market combined with lower Russian demand might result in lower exports in 2014 (-0.5 percent) before recovering in 2015.

Imports were down 6 percent in 2013, driven by lower shipments from South America, especially Brazil (-12 percent). Thai imports increased by 15 percent as the ban over fresh Thai chicken was removed. Imports are limited by preferential tariff quotas.

In a related development, the German poultry association (known under the German acronym ZDG) on February 18 issued a press release backing away from its 14-year-old commitment to use only non-GMO soybeans in poultry production. ZDG asserts that non-GMO soybean supplies cannot be guaranteed since Brazil, the main supplier, is likely to cut production by 50 percent in 2014.  ZDG also said that the danger of cross-contamination between GMO and conventional crops has risen.

Germany is one of the European Union’s largest poultry meat producers. In 2013, Germany produced about 1.4 million tons of poultry meat (out of total EU production of about 12.5 million tons). Germany is also one of the European Union’s largest users of soybeans and soybean meal, importing about 6.8 million tons of soybeans and products in 2013 for all uses (feed, biofuels, and related products). It is estimated that German poultry farmers use over 800,000 tons of soybeans meal annually as a protein feed ingredient.