Cattle prices at British livestock auctions bounced strongly at the beginning of the week, and MLC's summary of Tuesday markets showed a national average of more than 89p per kilo. This liveweight price was nearly 6p higher than a week earlier, and meant some buyers were having to pay much more than before the continental BSE crisis started. However, in the deadweight trade, more relevant to major retailers, it was harder to identify a clear market trend. Authoritative reports of R3 business at 155p or less continued to circulate in the market, but the buyers were in southern England. One effect of the upheaval seems to have been a widening of the Scotch beef premium, which producers north of the border were complaining had been severely eroded just a few weeks ago. Yet it is easy to find traders who will dispute any interpretation, some of the Scots, for instance, still claiming they are more vulnerable than their English and Welsh competitors to pressure from Irish supplies diverted from the continent. One theme of market gossip reminiscent of the 1996 BSE crisis is the evidence of ABP and some, though not all, of the other major processors trying to maintain producer confidence by paying perhaps a little more than necessary, presumably with quiet support from supermarkets. {{MEAT }}

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