Tonnages and spending some 5-10% lower than usual for time of year British pork will be back on the TV screens on Monday [May 14] as part of a £900,000 advertising campaign to begin repairing the damage inflicted on the meat market by the FMD crisis. Announcement of the two commercials and other promotional work by the British Pig Executive comes amid increasing signs of supply and demand returning to somewhere near normal across much of the trade. Talk among retailers and wholesalers is mostly of tonnages and spending being 5-10% lower than would usually be expected at this time of year, no longer of anything like the shortages and panic buying seen in late February and March. However MLC chairman Peter Barr has warned of a need for expensive measures to deal with fundamental problems in the market and production chain (The Grocer, May 5, page 8). However, the FMD crisis has resulted in two specific structural distortions that could put severe pressure on meat prices, and the pork promotion campaign has been designed partly to help correct one of these. Export bans imposed when the disease was discovered in this country pose a threat of heavy oversupply, because shipments of pork and lamb to overseas buyers normally absorb significant proportions of British production. The impact will perhaps not be felt in the sheepmeat sector until late summer, because official restrictions intended to eradicate FMD are keeping lamb slaughterings much lower than would usually be expected. But MLC marketing director Richard Lowe pointed out when announcing the new promotion campaign: "Production of pigmeat is now more or less up to the same levels as before FMD and it is the least affected of the red meats." The consequence already visible in the wholesale trade is weakness in the price of shoulders. Britain's pork exports, usually draining at least 20% of home production from the domestic market, traditionally comprise mostly sow meat and forequarter cuts from clean pig carcases, mainly for meat product manufacturers on the continent. Although the commercials to be shown next week are edited versions of advertising shown last year and follow the same strategy of trying to strengthen consumer demand for pork in general, the campaign will involve a new emphasis on forequarter cuts. MLC's product development team led by Keith Fisher has devised a new range of cuts and products, aimed at retailers as well as the foodservice sector, intended to absorb some of this surplus forequarter. {{M/E MEAT }}