Restoring the supply chain from livestock farm to abattoir continues, though more slowly than many wholesale and retail traders believe is necessary as MAFF becomes increasingly confident it has the FMD epidemic contained. Arrangements for sheep and cattle collection centres in England and Wales, similar to facilities already operational in Scotland, were said by the MLC to be "imminent" as The Grocer went to press. Smaller retailers, known to have been hardest hit by meat shortages, are regarded as most likely to benefit from the improved stock availability when the centres are running. The multiples and their major processor suppliers have been using the livestock movement licensing scheme introduced weeks ago, and their normal closer links with large producers meant they had infrastructure in place to adjust quickly to FMD. Nevertheless, pricing and carcase quality anomalies are known to have caused persistent problems even for big abattoirs and retailers because the lack of auctions and effective exclusion of many small producers from the licensing scheme make the usual market transparency and flexibility impossible. The new movement centres should improve matters, partly by enabling consolidation of consignments from groups of small farms which do not have the scale to supply slaughterhouses individually at economic rates of return. There is still no indication of when live auctions will be permitted, despite the recent decision by the EU veterinary committee giving the green light to auctions of cattle and pigs (but not sheep) in most member states. Direct procurement of stock from farms by supplying abattoirs is the multiples' preference, but in reality all the major processors rely partly on auctions, particularly for lambs, and these sales provide the price benchmarks for direct contract purchases. {{M/E MEAT }}