As usual, any mention of rising imports will make beef retailers nervous. Home producers are already grumbling about alleged dumping of Irish product here and there have been some pickets at supermarkets and distribution depots handling product from the Republic, although prices in Ireland are not particularly low. One argument likely to be put forward by the British farmers' leaders involves presenting the growth in imports as proof of the damage done to their industry by the BSE crisis. It is true the import volumes shown in the chart, 202,000 tonnes this year and 230,000 tonnes expected in 2001, are much bigger than immediately before the catastrophe of 1996. But they are not particularly out of line with import figures regarded as normal earlier in the decade. {{MEAT }}