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Poultry to account for half of world increase in meat consumption

The coronavirus pandemic “is placing unprecedented pressure on global agricultural and food supply chains.”

Although hobbled at the moment by outbreaks of African swine fever in Asia, global meat consumption will grow by 12% in the coming decade, with lower-cost poultry accounting for half of the increase, said the OECD and FAO on Thursday. Their jointly produced Agricultural Outlook report also said that aquaculture would overtake “capture fisheries” as the leading source of fish worldwide by 2024.

The coronavirus pandemic “is placing unprecedented pressure on global agricultural and food supply chains,” said the Outlook. Low economic growth this year “could contribute to a further drop in agricultural commodity prices, at least in the short run. If COVID-19 containment measures are effective and the global economy begins to rebound in 2021 … agricultural commodity demand and prices will gradually return to baseline levels over the following years.”

Two factors will boost meat consumption, said the report. Low feed costs will make livestock and poultry farming more lucrative. At the same time, consumers in middle-income countries “are expected to use their additional income to transform their diets from staples to higher-value products,” such as meats, said the Outlook. Meat consumption in developing nations, particularly in Asia and Africa, would rise five times faster than in developed countries. Currently, per capita meat consumption is low in developing countries but near saturation levels in the developed world.

“Consumption of poultry meat is projected to increase globally to 145 million tonnes (by 2029), with poultry expected to account for half of the additional meat consumed,” said the report. Pork consumption would rise to 127 million tonnes over the next 10 years and account for 28% of the global increase in meat consumption. Beef consumption was forecast to grow to 76 million tonnes by 2029 and supply 16% of the global increase. Mutton consumption would increase by 2 million tonnes and account for 6% of additional consumption.

While the appetite for meat is strong in developing nations, and while global meat demand has benefited from population and income growth, there are potential constraints. “Environmental and health concerns in high-income countries are expected to support a transition away from animal-based protein toward alternative sources, as well as more immediate substitution away from red meat, notably beef, toward poultry and fish,” said the OECD and FAO. In a chapter on meat, the Outlook said changing consumer preferences, such as a growing interest in vegetarian or vegan diets, concerns about meat’s impact on the environment, and religious and cultural norms, would also have an effect.

The OECD-FAO estimated world meat consumption at 325 million tonnes in 2019, down 2% from the previous year, largely because of an epidemic of African swine fever, an often-fatal disease for pigs, in China, the world’s largest pork producer and consumer. Pork production contracted by at least 21% last year in China, and its overall meat output fell by 10%.

Aquaculture would account for most of the growth in fish production in the coming decade, said the report. Fish production, which totals 176 million tonnes at present, is projected at 200 million tonnes in 2029. “Aquaculture production is projected to reach 105 million tonnes, 10 million tonnes more than the capture sector.” The capture sector is expected to supply 95 million tonnes in 2029, an increase of 1.3 million tonnes from current levels.

“The contribution of aquaculture to global fish production should continue to grow and surpass that of total capture fisheries (including the amount utilised for non-food uses) by 2024,” said the Outlook. “Relatively low feed prices are also behind the future growth of aquaculture, and profitability in the sector is expected to remain high in the next decade, especially for species that require small amounts of fishmeal and fish oil.”

The Agricultural Outlook, produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, is available here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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