EU sees lower meat and dairy output as weather and disease weigh

A dairy cow grazes at a dry pasture during a drought in Villers-en-Cauchies, France August 17, 2022. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

PARIS, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Meat and dairy production in the European Union is expected to decline this year and next as livestock farms feel the effects of drought, disease outbreaks and rising costs, the EU's executive said on Wednesday.

A historic drought in Europe this summer has reduced availability of grass and maize to feed herds, increasing costs for farms also facing soaring energy and fertiliser prices.

Signs of dwindling livestock output have led farming groups to warn of tight supplies that could exacerbate high food inflation.

EU milk production is projected to fall 0.5% this year, with reduced forage supply encouraging some farmers to cut herd sizes and hot, dry weather reducing cows' milk yields, the European Commission said in a short-term agriculture outlook.

The harsh summer weather also curbed fat and protein content in milk for processed dairy products, it said.

Like other observers, the Commission said early 2023 could prove difficult as dairy farmers face high feed costs during winter while consumer demand may weaken due to inflation.

For next year as a whole, it forecast a smaller 0.2% decrease in EU milk output. Assumed higher yields in normal weather mostly offset a decline in cow numbers, which were seen falling 0.8% after a 0.9% drop forecast for 2022.

For beef, feed costs were expected to reinforce a longer-term decline in herd numbers and contribute to a 0.6% drop in production this year before a smaller 0.2% decrease in 2023.

In addition to rising feed costs, the pork and poultry sectors have been weakened by outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) and avian influenza, or bird flu.

Pork output was forecast to fall 5% this year, notably due to a steep drop in Germany which has been badly affected by ASF, and then by 0.7% in 2023.

The poultry sector, disrupted by a bird flu crisis that is threatening to re-emerge, was expected to see production decline by 0.9% in 2022 and 0.4% in 2023.

Reporting by Gus ; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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