Farmers moaned about dumping but imports fell; secondary market will feel pressure BSE panic on the continent has certainly sent ripples through the British beef market, but it is increasingly clear the weakening of prices in some corners of the trade has not been caused by an import flood on the scale producers' spokesmen have claimed. The problem, which had been building up during much of last year, turned into a full blown crisis in October when beef from a BSE-infected herd in Normandy was found to have entered the food market. Almost immediately, farmers' lobbyists in the UK began protesting against alleged dumping here of Irish and other imported beef diverted from French, Italian and German markets. But the reality was a drop in beef imports during November. Latest available Customs figures show November beef arrivals from all sources totalled only 10,850 tonnes, 23% less than a year earlier. Landings from Ireland were down more sharply, by nearly 28%, confirming the claims of Irish suppliers who denied they were disrupting the market here. Imports were also much reduced from non-EU sources. Brazil, which had been mainly responsible for an increase in total overseas supply to the UK earlier in the year, shipped only half as much in November as 12 months previously. Overall imports during January-November were heavier than in the corresponding months of 1999, but by only about 5% at 138,000 tonnes. One implication of these figures is the major multiples have been vindicated in rejecting farmers' allegations of exploiting the availability of cheap beef imports. In the fresh meat sector, at least, the commitment to the home produced commodity has been honoured. However, since November there has definitely been increased pressure from imported beef on the secondary markets within the UK, and it would be surprising if this did not hurt domestic suppliers by softening forequarter prices. {{M/E MEAT }}