By FWi staff

SUPPLIES of beef available for consumption this year will be roughly equal to 1995 – the year before the BSE crisis, said the Meat and Livestock Commission.

The rise in beef consumption last year was mainly attributable to an increased uptake of 12% in the processed beef area.

This included beefburgers, pastries and ready-meals, said MLC senior economic analyst, Duncan Sinclair at its Outlook 99 conference, today (Friday).

But the real challenge ahead will be to re-establish British beef in export markets where it has been absent for three years.

Research has indicated potential markets exist in France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy for high-quality beef in the catering sector.

Conference chairman Bob Bansback, MLC corporate strategy director, said that there has been a significant decline in the growth rate of the major world economies over the past 12 months. A further decline is forecast for 1999.

“This has had a major impact in demand world-wide and meat suffers more than other food items when consumer incomes are squeezed,” he said.

Despite this the EU economies are forecast to grow more strongly than elsewhere in the world, said Mr Bansback.

“This – among other factors – is likely to result in a gradual improvement in the UK livestock market during the course of 1999,” he said.