Chilled half shoulders of New Zealand lamb in the supermarkets at under £3.00 per kilo hint at the further confusion in the sheepmeat trade, where shortages are much less severe than implied by the very low British kill. MAFF's latest estimates show total UK slaughterings had recovered to about half the weekly rate of a year earlier by mid March, resilient throughput at Northern Irish plants making up some of the shortfall at abattoirs on the mainland. With British exports suspended, domestic availability is been better than suggested by MLC's calculation of a British kill at only about a third of the normal rate. So the outlook British buyers is increasingly promising. The Irish are having difficulty shipping to France because of FMD, and French demand is weaker than expected. Although FMD eradication programmes might take out up to a million head, particularly from Cumbria and southern Scotland, any cull will absorb only a small proportion of the national lamb crop. Industry leaders are pressing for emergency aid, such as a subsidised storage scheme, to prevent an autumn price collapse. {{M/E MEAT }}

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