The Dutch pig herd continues to decline in size leading to reduced availability of raw material for the processor, and further pressures have been placed on supply in recent weeks by an increase in live exports, primarily to Germany and Spain. 

Product availability has also been influenced by a growing demand for Dutch retail specification product that fills a part of the gap resulting from falling UK production. 

However, in context, the Dutch pigmeat sector is more than 250% self sufficient and remains focused on its export markets, of which the UK is a priority. This focus is reflected in Dutch bacon exports to the UK in 2003 which continue to build on a very positive performance in 2002. 

The firming prices that you refer to are a function primarily of supply and demand, but also of the impact of exchange rate movements between sterling and the euro that have changed significantly over the past six months. Wholesale prices may have firmed over the past few weeks but they have yet to breach the base market price in 1991. As a result, Dutch bacon continues to offer tremendous value to the UK market.