BSE has been pushed off the front pages by FMD, but its effects are visible in the latest trade statistics. UK imports of beef were more than 30% heavier in January than a year earlier as Irish, continental and some third country suppliers sought alternative customers following the collapse of demand across much of the EU when BSE-infected cattle were thought to have been sold into the French meat market. These figures appear to justify the fears expressed by British producers at the beginning of the year. Beef imports caused further concern when slaughterhouses here were shut at the start of the FMD crisis. But now talk is the market is of shortages rather than oversupply of some foreign-sourced product. Suspension of Dutch meat exports, for instance, created a temporary gap in the British market for beef. And the EU ban on imports of beef from Argentina after FMD reappeared there has halted a modest but significant supply flow into this country. However, the broader picture is still of structural surplus in the EU as a consquence of the two disease crises. With demand for beef weak though showing signs of convalescence in some regions, and exports to third countries severely disrupted, it seems certain there will be more than enough available to British buyers for the rest of the year. {{M/E MEAT }}

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