China is on the verge of overtaking the EU as the world's third-largest beef producer, new figures from the MLC have shown.

However, fears this could lead to cheap Chinese meat hitting the international markets have been allayed, with commentators predicting that China will need most of its extra production to feed the growing domestic population. A rise in consumer spending on 'luxury' goods, a fall in pork production due to animal disease and higher consumption during this summer's Olympics are also bringing increased production.

The MLC's International Meat Market Review looks at world market trends for 2008. In terms of UK production, much could depend on whether Bluetongue controls continue to affect live exports. Analysts predict that if controls are not lifted a large number of calves could be lost to the food chain. But an MLC spokeswoman said a drop in UK calf numbers was not likely to have an impact on retail supply levels.