Industry began 2002 with carcase meat and offal stocks 8% heavier than year earlier Unease at storage levels DEFRA's estimate of year end stocks in public cold stores seems to vindicate traders who were warning even before Christmas of a potentially troublesome market. Although seasonal demand was strong and household purchases proved abnormally buoyant into January, the tonnages available were making wholesalers uncomfortable. The DEFRA statisticians reckon 30,100t of beef were in store on December 29, almost the same as on November 24 and on December 30 of the previous year. This apparent stability is an illusion, as supply and to a lesser degree demand had been affected by foot and mouth and by the earlier BSE crisis on the Continent. Pork stocks data illustrate the market pressure more clearly: the tonnage in store at the end of last year was about 50% greater than in late December 2000, the accumulation resulting from the export ban imposed when FMD was discovered. Against this background the sharp fall in British pig prices seen during January should not have been surprising. However, the likely influence of the relatively heavy stocks on beef and lamb prices is harder to assess. Forequarter beef prices have certainly been slipping in the wholesale market for several weeks, and now come signs of weakening values for steaks, but these are typical seasonal trends. Cattle prices are still quite firm. Similarly in the sheepmeat trade, the post Christmas stock overhang and seasonal build up of supplies from New Zealand have not prevented continuing increases in the cost of live home produced lambs for slaughterers. Overall, according to the DEFRA figures, the industry began this year with carcase meat and offal stocks about 8% heavier than last time. Prepared meat product stocks increased much more sharply in percentage terms. Also clogging the pipeline were nearly 61,000t of poultry and game, 8000t more than 12 months earlier. {{MEAT }}