More pig disease outbreaks, but latest supply forecasts favour buyers Total EU pigmeat output will continue rising for at least the next couple of years, implying UK purchasers should have no trouble finding extra imported product to supplement diminishing supply from the shrinking domestic industry. While reports suggesting pig disease in Spain and Britain could cause further disruption, price movements on the continent indicate traders reckon the more powerful market influence will be the surprisingly high production figures in the latest Brussels forecast. The analysts are not predicting a dramatic increase in output over the short term, merely a rise from the 2000-01 average of about 17.6 million tonnes to 18m tonnes next year and in 2003. But even this modest growth would be in sharp contrast to the cyclical downturn expected until late last summer. Most forecasters had assumed EU output would decline, though less steeply in the major producing states than in the UK, in reaction to a squeeze on margins following oversupply in the late 1990s. Tighter environmental controls in several countries, notably the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark, were also seen as sure to make pig industries contract. But then, in October last year, BSE scares wrecked the major continental beef markets and provided windfall gains for pig producers as consumers switched to pork. FMD also boosted returns for many pig farmers and processors outside the directly affected regions (though not in the UK). Brussels' message is of the supply/price sequence being reversed. Falling output was originally predicted to cause price rises in the second half of this year and through 2002. Instead, buyers have already been hit by unexpected price rises, but because these tempted producers to maintain or even increase breeding herds the prospect is of heavier supply and a softening market. {{M/E MEAT }}