Limbo for Latin prices

South American meat prices are rising as the Continent awaits the EU veterinary visit to Brazil.

At an audit of the Brazilian beef production system, due to take place on 6-19 November, EU officials will assess whether Brazil has implemented the recommendations made following a visit earlier this month. Uncertain about the effect the decision will have, South American farmers are holding back cattle and demand is exceeding supply.

Liz Murphy, of the International Meat Traders Association (IMTA), said: "Normally South American producers are running around looking for customers, but this year importers are seeking out suppliers. No-one is sure whether prices are going to go roaring upwards or come down a bit, so farmers are holding back cattle until they know what price they can sell them at."

The situation has been compounded by cut-backs across South America and a reduced kill due to the dry season. "Product from South America is becoming much more expensive, partly because of cut-backs. Brazilian plants are running at 60-70% of capacity and the product being offered is much more expensive," said Dennis Clarke, sales director at Towers Thompson food group.

He said that farmers are holding back cattle for a number of reasons and the situation is similar across South America.

It is not yet certain what effect the situation will have on import figures in the UK, but IMTA says it is possible that less South American product will be imported over the next few months if prices do not come down.

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