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Cereal prices continue to weaken, as a result of bumper crops two or three years running. Stocks are expected to remain high. The level of demand is essential in this context; paradoxically, the principal expectation of support for consumption is to be found in China. The current economic slowdown has had little impact on food consumption there, which remains healthy.
Oil's recent fall, much more brutal than that of most other commodities, shows the extent to which the correlation between oil and agricultural prices has weakened. Energy is one of main variable costs of agricultural production, but its economic impact remains indirect, and varies depending on crops, regions and years. Agrofuels now play a reduced role because their consumption has stabilised and is governed primarily by regulatory framework.
The French pork industry can be summed up in a few key figures: 5,000 specialist producers deliver most of the 23.7 million pigs raised to some 15 abattoir/processors, which sell the bulk of the various cuts produced to half a dozen purchasing hubs and just over 200 meat curing companies. The remaining 30% (by volume) is exported.
France has regained its position as the world's leading wine producer, but its 2014 exports tell a sorry tale. Volumes are expected to fall further, with weaker penetration of its main markets, especially the USA and the UK. Some positive factors are coming into play for the 2014-2015 season. The harvest has been good and global consumption is picking up. But questions remain as to whether French wine can win back market share.
Agricultural prices are now falling from their peak of recent years. This follows two very good harvests for all continents, major cereals (wheat and maize) and oilseeds. There was a similar succession of good harvests in 2009, against the backdrop of an economic crisis that then seemed more worrying. The outlook for demand was a little stronger than now, however, as China is slowing, and agro-fuels have fallen out of favour.
Russia is the leading importer of European pork, cheese, fruit and veg. Announced on 7 August, the Russian embargo exposes Europe's internal market to a risk of fruit, vegetable and milk production surpluses. France exports limited volumes of agricultural produce to Russia but could be affected by a return of goods on the internal market.
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