Prospects hard to assess Britain's swine fever crisis appears to be over. MAFF has lifted nearly all the pig movement restrictions imposed after the disease was discovered in August, and as a consequence availability of stock for killing and processing should improve. However, price prospects for the pork and bacon markets remain difficult to assess. It is not certain breeding herd contraction has stopped in the UK, and BSE on the continent could affect both demand and supply in unexpected ways. First predictions were of a dramatic demand swing from beef to pigmeat as BSE hysteria swept through several major EU markets during November and December, but by Christmas it had become clear prices were stabilising in the main pig producing regions. In the UK the market actually fell. On the other hand, some analysts are warning buyers to beware of the pig industry's tendency to react perversely to even quite modest demand boosts. A rise in the price of pigs can lead to temporary shortages, causing further price increases, because producers must hold back stock for breeding instead of slaughter if they are to meet the market's need for additional supply. This implies it is possible EU production will fall more sharply this year than the 2-3% indicated by recent official forecasts if the BSE scare leads pig producers on the continent to try rebuilding breeding herds quickly in anticipation of sustained extra demand from consumers. Yet as the British industry found after the 1996 BSE crisis here, the rise in output could then cause a price collapse. {{MEAT }}