A form of cartel is going to work to the disadvantage of UK buyers' The threat of a corned beef shortage looms as militant dockers in Brazil's largest port, Santos, have stopped the loading of all vessels. Attempts by frigorificos to divert exports through other ports have been in vain as the strike has now spread throughout Brazil, bringing imports and exports to a halt. Dock workers are calling for improved working conditions and a tighter control over labour allocations. The union, outnumbered by non union workers by three to one, fears a weakening of its hold over labour control in the ports. There has already been violence which could escalate as the courts are expected to call for a return to work, invoking the need for a strong police enforcement regime. As canned meat sales have doubled over the last few weeks, due to fears of a shortage of fresh meat, the strike gives serious cause for concern among UK importers. Recent consolidation in the Brazilian corned beef industry has resulted in a united front, whereby prices have risen by 2 dollars/case and with no sign of willingness to negotiate. As a leading importer told The Grocer: "We seem to be facing a form of cartel which is going to work to the disadvantage of UK buyers." - Exports of Dutch canned meat were resumed this week after a delay of 10 days caused by the newly introduced Health Certificate requirement following the foot and mouth outbreak. Higher prices are being asked by processors who are sourcing raw material in Denmark, which can freely export pork cuts, whereas there remains a prohibition on movement in Holland of their own pigs, similar to the UK. So far, there is no evidence of stock shortages, although some retail promotions have been postponed to conserve supplies. Recently introduced retail price increases on hams and hotdogs have had very little effect on sales, according to trade sources. Although any form of panic buying has diminished, there are still signs consumers are keeping cupboards well stocked. {{M/E CANNED GOODS }}