In UK, talk of pig slaughterings returning to normal rates is misleading Dutch pork and bacon suppliers had more good news for customers on Monday, reporting further easing of FMD controls and cautiously expressing hope the disease crisis was over as no new case had been found for 22 days. This optimism in the Netherlands is worrying for competitors in the British market, as prices here have already come under pressure due to the partial resumption of Dutch deliveries. A specific source of concern has been the skewed weight distribution of Dutch pig carcase supply, an inevitable consequence of stock having been trapped on farms by the movement restrictions needed as FMD control measures. The same has occurred in the UK, producers' spokesmen here voicing concern at what they see as misleading reporting of the supply position. Although the clean pig kill has quickly returned to somewhere near the normal weekly slaughter tally, large numbers of sows are still backed up on the farms. The pressure caused by these market distortions is at least partly relieved by the better demand tone, retailer promotions now supported by the MLC ad campaign apparently promoting extra trade and consumer interest. However, as the FMD upheaval subsides it seems inevitable traders' attention will return to the divergence of clean pig supply trends here and on the continent. Six months ago it appeared slaughterings would fall nearly everywhere in the EU, though probably with the greatest declines due to structural changes in the industries of the Netherlands (a response to environmental restrictions) and the UK (because many producers here had suffered a ferocious financial squeeze in 1998-99). Surprisingly strong expansion of the Danish herd had already challenged the assumption early in the year. Now UK trade data prove Dutch supplies of pork did not decline in January-February, and bacon shipments from the Netherlands increased sharply. In other words, the easing of FMD controls suggests Danish and especially Dutch deliveries could bounce to levels greater than expected before the crisis. Reports from France and Spain are of pigmeat production more resilient than anticipated. But in the UK, specificially the regions hit by FMD, talk of pig slaughterings returning to normal' kill rates is misleading. As the MLC points out: "Since the week ended March 10, GB weekly slaughterings of pigs for use in the food chain have shown, on average, a decline of 20%." The message is shrinkage of the British pigmeat production base has been more dramatic than generally recognised, and the import requirement is likely to increase despite the apparent surplus of home-killed sow carcases and forequarters resulting from the export ban. {{M/E MEAT }}