Confusion as Brussels postpones meeting on export subsidy cuts Beef traders are watching Ireland nervously for price hints as the seasonal upturn in production begins, and this year the odds on a pre-Christmas supply surge from the Republic are unusually hard to calculate. Late summer typically brings rumours of Irish producers and processors ready to flood the British market when cattle come off grass. Sometimes, as in 1999, the traders get it wrong and find the price robust until the New Year. Until a few weeks ago the betting was on fairly tight availability for Ireland's British customers, because Coninental and Middle Eastern buyers of live cattle have been taking large numbers from the depleted herd in the Republic. This is still broadly true, with some reports suggesting live shipments will soon increase further, although the Irish Food Board recently noted a slowdown in the trade. Diminishing cattle numbers in Northern Ireland also suggest a firm market is likely during the next few months. However, a new complicating factor is the European Commission's postponement of its beef management committee meeting. This was due on August 26, and had been expected to result in export subsidy cuts. If the delayed meeting now scheduled for September 15 leads to subsidy reductions, British buyers could be expected to benefit as Irish processors find third country beef sales less lucrative. But this gain might be wiped out if accelerated live cattle exports to Continental markets force the killing plants to pay dearly for scarce stock. {{MEAT }}