24 April 2001
Foot-and-mouth boosts Euro beef

by Philip Clarke, Europe editor

THE European Union beef market has improved over recent weeks helped partly by the removal of over 110,000t in the UK as a result of foot-and-mouth.

Presenting his monthly update to farm ministers in Luxembourg, EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler said prices had reached an “acceptable level”.

Young bulls were at 71% of intervention with steers at 83%. But cows remain depressed with prices still 23% down on the pre-BSE crisis levels of last November.

The main reason for improvement is the impact of various buy-up schemes.

Over 190,000t was taken into public intervention. The purchase for destruction scheme was removed some 482,000 animals equivalent to 160,000t of beef.

Furthermore, foot-and-mouth slaughter programmes had seen another 110,000t of beef go up in smoke in the UK, according to commission figures.

Much of this would have gone into the over-30 months scheme anyway but Mr Fischler estimated that at least 60,000t had been taken from the human food chain.

On the demand side consumption was estimated at 18% below November 2000 levels, compared with 23% down in March and 25% down in February.

Risto Volanen, secretary general of EU Farmers Group COPA, said he was greatly encouraged if surprised by this improvement.

He added: “It shows consumers believe that farmers are taking the crisis seriously and working hard to improve standards.”

But Mr Fischler said better figures could just reflect an rise in Easter demand.

The first tender under the EUs Special Purchase Scheme for over-30 month animals saw just 205t of beef taken from the market.

Prices were low enough only in Austria and the Netherlands – to trigger the scheme. But the Netherlands was unable to participate due to foot-and-mouth.

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