Animal protein production growth will slow as margins remain tight in 2024, with producers and processors needing to adapt to sustain success, according to Rabobank’s annual Global Animal Protein Outlook report. After four years of growth in animal protein production globally, 2024 will see the pace slow or even decline across some species, the specialist food and agribusiness bank predicts.
The shift comes as producers and processors navigate tighter margins due to structural changes to market conditions. Higher production costs and tighter supplies will push animal protein prices up and constrain global consumption in 2024. Input costs and inflation are likely to fall but will remain at a higher level than pre-pandemic. There are also signs that consumers are growing used to higher prices and, in some markets, willing to pay a quality premium.
Some market changes appear to be permanent, Rabobank notes. Demographic shifts will see the labor market tighten and raise production costs, while reduced population growth will slow consumption.
Elsewhere, there will be pressure to invest in upgrading production systems to serve emerging market needs, meet regulatory requirements and cater to changing consumer preferences around sustainability. Adverse weather conditions and disease also present challenges.
Resilience and flexibility
Justin Sherrard, global strategist animal protein at Rabobank, said, “It’s a testament to the resilience and flexibility of companies along animal protein supply chains that they continue to grow production and deliver on customer expectations amid such challenging market conditions. Despite a cost of living crisis putting pressure on consumer finances, there continues to be demand for animal protein, and companies have been able to overcome challenges, from high costs to regulatory uncertainty and disease, to capitalize on it.
“For companies to sustain the success of the past few years, it’s essential that they adapt to the structural changes in the market. Instead of simply riding out the storm, animal protein businesses need to take stock of their strengths and prepare to transition their supply chains to operate in an environment with high costs and tight margins,” Sherrard said.
“Companies should double-down on improving their productivity, review their existing portfolios, strengthen supply chain partnerships, increase investment in new product development and adjust their pricing strategies to navigate the challenges of the coming year,” Sherrard said.
Rabobank’s analysts forecast marginal year-on-year production growth in the major markets of North America, Brazil, Europe, Oceania, China and Southeast Asia of 0.6 million tons – or 0.5% – to a total of 247 million tons next year. This is against 2.1 million tons, or 1% growth, in 2023.
Poultry and aquaculture will be the only two species groups to see production grow in 2024, predicts Rabobank, though it will be slower than in 2023. Beef will continue the decline seen in 2023, moving with changes in cattle cycles in North America, while pork production will also contract modestly.
Wild-catch seafood will return to its longer-term pattern of declining production after a year of expansion in 2023.
Salmon looks set to be one of 2024’s success stories. Following two years of production contracting and flatlining, supply will expand by 4-5%, and its relative price competitiveness against other proteins will boost demand.
However, plant-based meat alternatives will continue their decline with customers and investors. Foodservice is expected to be the key buyer for players in the category in 2024.