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AN OPPORTUNITY for those in the meat industry to hear the latest position on the many issues currently either in or on the cusp of development will be made possible at the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) Outlook Conference.

The state of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations and the implications for the EU and UK red meat industries will be set out at the event being held in London on Tuesday January 31.

Two parallel sessions will also be held - one focusing on the outlook for the cattle and sheepmeat sectors and the other for the pigmeat sector.

Head of policy for the MLC and key organiser of the conference, Stephen Rossides, said: "We are on the edge of quite a lot of important industry developments. The conference is an industry holders' and operators' conference and they will be reading into some quite complicated sides of our market and I think that they will gain some interest in some of these important issues."

Peter Barr, chairman of the MLC, will open the conference and there will be guest speakers including: Andy Lebrecht, director general, sustainable farming, food and fisheries, Defra; Liz Murphy from EM Consultants and Steve Ellwood, head of agriculture, HSBC Bank Ltd.

Stewart Houston, chairman of the British Pig Executive (BPEX), will chair one of the sessions.

He said: "The Outlook conference has become important for producers, processors and retailers to look at what the outlook and prospects for the pork and pigmeat might be over the coming year - in particular the challenges and opportunities. One of the challenges we focused on for this conference was the WTO, where pigmeat has huge non-trade issues being brought to the fore, such as welfare and the environment."

Speaking in the sector sessions will be Jean Pierre Garnier, export manager at the MLC; Duncan Sinclair and Mark Topliff, economic and policy analysis group at the MLC; Anne Brigitte Lundholt, chair of the Pigmeat Committee, International Meat Secretariat; Julian Bell, senior economist, Home-Grown Cereals Authority and Mick Sloyan, chief executive of (BPEX).

John Cross, chairman of the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) chairing the other session, said: "Our key role, our essential role, is to equip the industry as much as humanly possible so producers can make the right decisions for next year. This outlook conference is more important and more relevant than ever before. The decisions that must be made are more important than we have had before."

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