Prospects for the 2014 harvests are good as the winter climatic conditions have been broadly favourable so far, according to the European Commission's Winter 2014 Short-Term Agricultural Outlook, which has been published this morning.

According to the Commission, the good 2013 cereal harvest will allow for partial stock recovery and record exports.

"The good 2013 cereal harvest, an increase of 8.3 per cent with respect to 2012, should allow for a recovery in stocks by the end of the 2013/14 marketing year; yet stocks are expected to remain below average as EU exports could reach a record level, exceeding 37 million tonnes," it outlined.

In terms of early estimates for 2014 it said sowings indicate a slight increase in cereal area, an increase of .8 per cent, mainly due to soft wheat increase of 2.8 per cent.

In terms of meat consumption, the Commission said it is expected to increase in the short run, thanks to improvements in the economy and of meat availability

"Following two successive years of contracted beef and pork domestic supply and demand, EU meat production and consumption is expected to recover in 2014."

It noted some re-building of the dairy herd should lead to higher beef meat supply, while increased productivity in the pig meat sector could allow production to recover, following the strong decline in the sow herd observed in 2012 and 2013 linked to the implementation of the new EU welfare rules for sows.

With regard to EU milk prices, it said high prices stimulated an increase in 2013 milk production.

"High milk prices, induced by strong global demand, have triggered a significant rebound in milk production in the second half of 2013, more than offsetting the decrease of the first months of the year."

The Commission also noted the number of EU dairy cows increased significantly in 2013, thus leading to expectations that milk collection should increase in both 2014 and 2015.

"Although no significant surge in milk production is expected after the quota system is abolished, higher milk availability should allow grasping export opportunities in world markets, in particular for milk powders and cheese," it added.