Retail meat buyers have been warned that "the party is over" in terms of rock bottom prices for British beef when normal exports to Europe resume on Wednesday.

Demand on the Continent for cow beef and meat from young bulls would put upward price pressure on the domestic market for beef from steers, the preferred source for the UK market, said JP Garnier, MLC beef export manager.

He said domestic British beef prices would rise to levels above the EU average within a few months, significant considering current prices are among the lowest in Europe.

Immediate demand would come from Portugal, Spain, Greece and the Netherlands - countries that rely heavily on imports to meet demand. Big orders were expected in time from France and Italy, too.

Garnier said: "There is a structural deficiency across the EU. It's not just that there's not enough beef. There's not enough of the right type of beef.

"The French love cow beef and there is great demand for meat from young bulls in southern Europe.

"Although there won't be high volumes of exports of meat from steers, the effect of greater exports of other categories of beef will be to raise the value of beef across the board - from manufacturing beef, to mince, to the best cuts.

"One way or another, retailers will have to pay more, whether that's in fixed contracts or on the spot market."

Average beef prices in the UK are around £2/kg deadweight compared with £2.35/kg dw in Spain and Portugal.