Unexpectedly heavy beef production has been the distinctive feature of the market so far this year. First quarter domestic output was higher than in early 1999, whereas a slight decline had been predicted. Trade statistics have indicated a decline in imports, but sentiment in the marketplace suggests actual supply has been more than adequate to satisfy flat demand. Prospects now depend partly on how many manufacturing beef cattle emerge from dairy calf fattening units in the next few months. Elsewhere in the market, the drop in pork production is being offset by a switch from net exports to net imports (although the bacon trade is tighter) and lamb prices are softer than the recorded drop in the home kill implies. {{MEAT }}

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