Confidence is weakening in parts of the beef trade, with some suppliers claiming the multiples are trying to force down prices of the best quality cuts and joints. Loudest protests have come from producers' leaders in Scotland, who see their position at the top end of the market under threat. However, reports of Scottish NFU officials warning against predatory pricing by supermarkets and importers need to be interpreted against a background of controversy sparked by upheaval in meat promotion organisations north of the border. But there is no doubt Scotland's cattle trade is wobbling. Latest MLC estimates of deadweight prices show an R4L steer worth on average £1.86 per kg in Scotland, just 6p more than in England and Wales. The premium was at least 15p pre-Christmas. The narrowing of differential vindicates several wholesale sector leaders, including ANM Group chief executive Brian Pack, who warned of a possible backlash from consumers after Scottish beef prices soared and generated unexpected processing margins in the October-December quarter (The Grocer, January 8, p20). The odd feature of the Scottish NFU's response is its failure to identify any influence other than supermarket and import pressure for the price correction. {{MEAT }}