Unrealistic expectations by farmers could cause new market collapse Foot and mouth still shadows sheepmeat Prices and supplies of home killed lamb are likely to remain distorted by the export ban due to foot and mouth well into next year, the partial resumption of pork shipments to Continental buyers not being a signal of an early return to normality in the sheepmeat sector. Peter Hardwick, the MLC's man in Brussels, was among those warning against hopes of a very quick return to exporting when the subject was discussed at Anuga. But he expressed optimism that sheepmeat exports might resume in March 2002. Some MLC and DEFRA spokesmen have also suggested at least a partial lifting of the sheepmeat ban could occur next spring. "The trouble is partly that our sheepmeat exports were mostly from areas hardest hit by FMD," said Hardwick. Pigs are produced and processed mostly in eastern England, almost unaffected by the disease, whereas the south west, Wales and northern England where lamb output is concentrated have been severely afflicted. The most obvious cause for concern is the possibility of further outbreaks in these key sheep producing regions. As The Grocer went to press, no new cases had been reported for a fortnight, but tests were still identifying sheep with FMD antibodies in the south west and Cumbria. A more sutble threat to market stability is the risk of overoptimistic talk of a renewed export led price boom promoting unrealistic expectations among farmers planning next season's output, leading to another market collapse a year from now. l See page 20 {{MEAT }}