By Joanna Newman
THE increasing EU trade dispute has had little impact to date on US cattle prices.
Trade negotiators continue to battle to lift the EU ban on US hormone-treated beef.
But US market prices are unlikely to react to the ban, and a lift in the near future looks an unlikely event given the current tense stand-off.
As matters stand, the EU is a negligible export market because it accepts only US beef from cattle raised without the use of hormones. This represents a fraction of American output.
Meanwhile, the US cattle industry is keeping a watchful eye on other political developments.
For the time being, the food aid programme to Russia is still on track despite repercussions from the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and Yeltsins sacking of yet another prime minister.
On the domestic front, cattle producers are hoping that a recent surge in pork values will encourage retailers to promote the more competitive beef products.
In any event, Americans can be counted on to eat a lot of burgers over Memorial Day weekend at the end of May, the traditional start of the summer barbecue season.
Live cattle values have held steady since the start of the month. Packers bought fed cattle for slaughter last week at 64-65¢/lb (87-88p/kg), and were placing bids at 63-64¢/lb this week against offers of 66¢/lb.
Meanwhile after a volatile week the Chicago May feeder cattle futures contract softened to 70.7¢/lb (96p/kg) on Tuesday (May 11), from 71.1¢ a week earlier.