Tumbling sales of beef to BSE-frightened consumers in several major EU markets, as in the UK four years ago, may prove difficult to interpret as forward price indicators partly because the role of western European demand in total world trade is often over-estimated. In 1998, despite substantial recovery from the first BSE crisis, per capita consumption in the EU was still less than half the North American volume and much lower than in South America or Australasia. Even the average Russian ate more than the typical EU consumer. If the current problems cause Brussels to falter in its attempt to bring EU support prices down closer to the world market level, while predicted demand growth occurs in the Far East, buyers in western Europe could find themselves disadvantaged during the next few years. {{MEAT }}

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