Prices predicted to remain soft Pork buyers worried by the rising market might find consolation in the latest Agricultural Outlook published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. The OECD staff, who have a good track record in food commodity market forecasting, reckon world pigmeat prices will be relatively soft for the next five years, partly because US production is about to increase again. The report does not predict pigmeat will become cheaper. On the contrary, prices in the world market are expected to rise as part of a general surge in the major producing regions' food raw material export volumes and values in response to growing demand from newly industrialised countries recovering from the financial crises of the 1990s. However, pork prices are forecast to be restrained by rising output. Pigmeat exports from the OECD countries will reach nearly double the average 1994-98 volume by the middle of this decade, much faster growth than expected in the poultry, dairy products or grain sectors. These new OECD forecasts coincide with more evidence of resilience or recovery in the US pig sector, likely to be a powerful influence on the world market. Latest official figures from Washington confirm predictions of productivity growth and carcase weight increases cancelling out the effects of breeding herd contraction and a slight decline in the number of pigs slaughtered. With American pigmeat production increasing, only the surprising strength of domestic demand for pork and bacon in the US (partly consumer purchase substitution as the beef market rises) can prevent dilution of the price effect from EU output contraction. {{MEAT }}