Fallout from BSE could signal long term depression for the entire meat sector British retailers and processors can probably expect more imported pork bargains following a shakeout of pig prices in Germany, which is by far the biggest EU market. German meat product manufacturers are suffering a severe downturn in sales apparently caused by confusion over labelling which has alienated consumers worried by the BSE crisis. The problem lies with sausage, which the Germans eat in huge quantities. The main ingredient is pork, but some beef is used. Fear of eating BSE-infected beef not disclosed on labels has knocked confidence in the category during the past couple of weeks and hit prices and volumes back up the supply chain. The MLC says it has identified a knock-on effect on the UK pigmeat trade. The price of sows, many of which are slaughtered for export to Germany, has fallen about 30% in a fortnight, despite relatively tight supply. Pig prices have also been softening in major EU markets, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy. Most UK traders watching the German upheaval share the MLC's view that downward price pressure will be largely confined to processing and manufacturing cuts. However, the German pigmeat crisis could mask a more worrying trend. The Grocer has been told by two marketing organisations selling into the UK and other EU states that they have seen hints of consumer demand for meat in general weakening since the continental BSE scare began last autumn. Growing incidence of the disease in Germany may be just one of many reasons for demand switching away from beef. If that is the case, then it will not necessarily be of corresponding benefit to pigmeat or even sheepmeat suppliers. {{MEAT }}