UK beef production will increase slightly this year and farmers’ fortunes will be helped by the country’s economic recovery, EBLEX has said.

British farms will produce 865,000t of beef in 2014, a 2% rise on the previous year, senior analyst Debbie Butcher told the AHDB Outlook Conference.

The total UK beef supply will grow from 1.12m tonnes in 2013 to 1.15m tonnes in 2014, as imports rise a little more than exports.

About 85% of British beef stays in the UK so better economic prospects will help the industry, as GDP growth is forecast to be more than 2% in 2014.

“Supplies on the domestic market are expected to be a little bit more abundant than they have been in the last year,” Ms Butcher said.

“The domestic economy is the most important to our beef industry. We are all going to be richer this year and going to spend that on beef products.”

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Ms Butcher said she expected the tight supply to continue in Europe and the rest of the world.

But UK beef was still the most expensive in Europe by a considerable margin, she said.

“That price differential has widened. Early in 2010 there was much greater convergence than we have had on the turn into 2014.

“Some of our near competitors certainly have an advantage.”

Global spending on beef products was up 4% in the 52 weeks to 5 January 2014.

World production is forecast to be flat, with small increases in the EU and Argentina, no change in Australia and Canada, and growth of 5% in India and 3% in China.

US production is forecast to drop almost 6% and the country is at its lowest slaughter level since 1941.