MLC keeps up pressure Beef exporting is a sensitive issue among retailers, many of whom resent producers' and processors' determination to find alternative customers abroad. So controversy seems likely when it becomes widely known DEFRA and the MLC are pressing Brussels for permission to resume shipments to continental markets. The good news for hostile retailers is the low probability of anything happening on the export front to drive beef prices higher in the short term. Beef, like lamb and nearly half Britain's potential pigmeat production, is barred from export because of the foot and mouth epidemic. Relaxing the FMD controls would not in itself do much if anything for beef, because shipments of this meat would remain subject to the date-based scheme under which the earlier BSE-prompted export ban was partially lifted two years ago. Negligible tonnages had been exported before FMD brought the shutters down again. Processors complained the rules, notably the requirement to dedicate plants solely to exports, made the business unviable. Last year there were hints Brussels might allow so-called "day dedication". But Meat and Livestock Commission international manager Peter Hardwick said at Anuga: "We're going further, arguing that the overall rules for beef consumption should again be harmonised throughout the EU, which would have the effect of freeing exports." Traders who heard of Hardwick's remarks tended to interpret the negotiating approach he outlined as being by definition slower and more difficult than settling for day dedication, even if more likely to make bigger tonnages exportable eventually. {{MEAT }}