Belfast Telegraph

Meat industry must cut costs, says expert study

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's £1.5bn meat industry must work on cutting costs and boosting export opportunities over the next 10 years, according to a study.

The 117-page study by GIRA -a French consultancy firm specialising in the global meat industry - was commissioned by Invest NI and the Livestock and Meat Commission.

The study also considered threats facing the industry, which employs 9,000 people in Northern Ireland, such as rising feed costs, and the effects of consumer trends.

Ian Murphy, Invest NI's managing director of clients and entrepreneurship, said: "This is one of the most significant documents that we have produced because meat processing is vitally important here in terms of the scale of its contribution to the local economy, especially rural communities, in areas such as exports, new product development and, of course, employment.

"Currently the industry contributes around 50% of the £3bn earned by food processing here.

"Ensuring its long-term growth, therefore, is immensely important to Invest NI and, of course, to the wider community.

"What this study does clearly and concisely is highlight the opportunities, particularly in Europe, and the challenges our companies will face increasingly from global competitors from South America, China and the US.

"It also highlights the rising input costs such as feed stuffs and energy, as well as the challenges from the sharpening focus, particularly among European consumers, on food safety and sustainability."

The study forecasts continuing growth in poultry products, with demand for most meat products driven by rising populations.

While other meats will also grow in sales, poultry - the cheapest and easiest farm meat to produce - will gain the most market share.

Among the key points in the study is the expected growing popularity of poultry products, with rising demand for most meat products driven by rising populations.

Demand in the developing world, especially China, will increase for most meat products.

EU growth will favour "cheaper, quicker growing species" with chicken continuing to win market share.

Forces driving change in the industry were likely to include increasing animal welfare concerns - giving rise to higher costs; higher oil prices; currency volatility; rising costs as sustainability grows in importance; and nutrition concerns among consumers and governments.

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