United States trade officials have, as expected, announced partial lifting of the barriers set against most pigmeat imports from the EU when the foot and mouth disease crisis started. With similar relaxation seen as likely in the Japanese market, the world pork trade outlook is brighter than a couple of weeks ago. This might disappoint major UK buyers who had hoped they would be able to pick and choose from continental supplies denied access to other markets. However these purchasers might find consolation in a less widely reported news item from Washington. Latest figures published by the agriculture department show a small rise in US hog numbers. With expansion clearly strong in Canada and nothing like the anticipated contraction in most of the major EU industries, it is now almost certain the next international cyclical price downturn is imminent. A slightly less buyer friendly suggestion was voiced at the recent Agra Europe conference in London by BPEX manager Mick Sloyan. Sloyan pointed to structural expansion of international demand, and specially in parts of Asia, but even he acknowledged the potentially uncomfortable total supply flow. {{M/E MEAT }}