Restrictions denied producers access to slaughterhouses of their choice Increased supply causing prices to rise is an economic paradox surprisingly common in food commodity markets. It is about to happen again in the British beef sector if producers' leader Robert Robinson is correct in forecasting the effect of the relaxation of FMD control measures announced by DEFRA. Robinson, chairman of the National Beef Association, greeted the easing of livestock movement restrictions by claiming "sellers have an opportunity to put at least £30-£50 on the value of properly finished animals that are not overweight". Robinson's prediction could mean retailers must be ready to rebuff processors pleading for higher prices to offset the extra cost per beast of the more abundant cattle. This illogical outcome is likely, says the NBA, because the movement restrictions have denied many producers access to the slaughterhouses of their choice. The NBA, as a producers' organisation, naturally claims the farmers have suffered by being put at the mercy of slaughterers bidding low in the knowledge there will be no other buyers, but it also acknowledges ARA abattoirs "have suffered damagingly low throughputs for weeks". Less restricted movement now should push up prices both by letting the farmers shop around for the best deals with slaughterers and permitting the throughput-hungry abattoir operators to bid for stock on holdings previously declared out of bounds. But the NBA's reasoning seems suspect when looked at against the background of recent national supplies and prices. Official estimates of UK production put beef output last month [May] nearly 12% lower than a year earlier, yet the MLC's survey of processors indicated the deadweight value of an R4L steer in England and Wales was at least a couple of pence per kilo softer. The year on year shortfall may have increased subsequently. In the week ended June 16, the MLC reckoned the English or Welsh steer was worth about 166p, against almost 173p 12 months previously. Pig prices tell a similar story, the current firming market taking values to only about 3% higher than in June 2000, despite the dramatic drop in production. On this basis there would seem to be a questionmark against the meat trade's ability to absorb much extra domestic production without livestock prices sagging. {{M/E MEAT }}