Household purchases of beef in the first nine months of 2016 were down 5% by volume, according to Nielsen consumer panel data, and 7% by expenditure, repeating a similar decline recorded in 2015.
And a 3% fall was revealed at last week’s Bord Bia’s Meat Marketing Seminar, compared to beef consumption increases of 1.1% to 1.8% in the UK, Netherlands, Germany and Spain; 0.1% in France; and 3.1% in Ireland.
Consumer demand for beef has been falling steadily in Italy.
At the same time, Poland is increasing its Italian market share, putting pressure on other suppliers.
Demand has fallen in Italy for meat in general, with fresh pork and poultry sales also particularly affected.
This is attributed to pressure on consumers’ incomes, forcing poorer families in particular to cut back on meat purchases.
This exacerbates the general switch away from meat, as consumers become more health conscious.
France has traditionally been the main beef supplier, mainly from young bulls, but has been under increasing threat from Polish young bull beef.
Poland could emerge as the largest supplier to Italy in 2017, representing a gain for the Irish processing companies which are now increasingly involved in the Polish beef sector.
In 2005, the first full year of Polish membership of the EU, their share of Italian imports was just 6%. Now, their share is 20%, compared to France’s 21%.
Ireland is a small supplier to Italy, with shipments of 21,000 tonnes in 2015.
It has been a premium market, for heifer beef in particular, in recent years, but shipments declined sharply in 2015.
Italian import demand for beef seems likely to fall further in 2017, with economic uncertainty an issue again following the referendum at the beginning of December which resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
However, EU beef consumption growth generally is expected to continue in 2017 near the 2.4% growth recorded in 2016.