Fears of a widespread outbreak of foot and mouth have receded. But with an export ban still in place as a result of the discovery of the disease in Surrey, fears persist over the impact of extra supplies of domestic meat on the market on prices. The NFU said this week Gordon Brown had been in direct contact with major retailers to demand they ensured livestock producers did not suffer in the wake of foot and mouth disease. It said Brown telephoned supermarket bosses following a promise he made last week to NFU president Peter Kendall to intervene. “I have spoken to a number of retailers who said they have had contact from the Prime Minister,” said Kendall. “He is telling them to continue to source UK produce and market in a sensible way which maintains price.” The news received a lukewarm welcome from retailers’ leaders. The BRC said while its members were keen to co-operate with Brown, the PM could not dictate on the prices they paid for food. “It’s the market that determines price,” said a spokesman. “It would obviously be wrong for a politician to attempt to influence the open competitive market that exists.” NFU chief livestock adviser Peter King said supermarkets had so far acted responsibly and not cut prices to suppliers, but that uncertainty remained among the agricultural community. “There is a real opportunity for retailers to give clear signals to the supply chain that there’s a need for the product and a fair price will be paid,” he said. Analysis of retail meat prices by The Grocer showed little or no movement in either direction by the six leading multiples, although the price of rump steak was slashed by £1.98 at Asda and pork chops fell by 4p at Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Richard Lowe, CEO of the Meat & Livestock Commis­sion, also warned that retailers won’t be able to call on processors to push through lower prices because abattoirs cannot sell parts of animals, such as trotters and skin, that the UK has no demand for. “A lot of meat processors will take a hit and the price pressure is likely to be upwards rather than downwards as processors’ costs are rising.” Analysis p26