AHDB meat services economist Mark Topliff gives his view:

“Worldwide, we expect the supply of cattle to continue tight in the next few years, helping to support prices.

“On the demand side, there are question marks in the short term, and the market may soften in response to the global financial crisis. But it will bounce back as the world population continues to grow and people in emerging economies become more affluent.

“Exchange rates will continue to play a key role in determining international prices. As the US dollar strengthens, that will make them less competitive in Third country outlets. But as the Australian dollar weakens, Australia will become more competitive.

“More worrying, perhaps, is the weakening of the Brazilian real and the determination of the Brazilian beef industry to get back into the EU and UK market. This could lead to stiffer competition closer to home later next year.”

“One of the big unknowns, of course, is animal disease. Beef producers are well aware of the dangers of foot-and-mouth, BSE and bluetongue. These could impact on the trade at anytime, both at home and abroad.

“And then there is the WTO process. While this is currently stalled, longer term it could have a significant impact, as import tariffs and tariff rate quotas are reduced, increasing the pressure on the EU beef market in particular.

“But for now there are more positives in the market than negatives and beef prices look set fair.”