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Friday, 2 March, 2001, 15:58 GMT
British meat supplies run low
British meat has been in great demand
British meat has been in great demand
Fears of a widespread meat shortage are growing as many supermarkets prepare to switch to imported supplies.

One Asda store has already run out of pork and lamb and some supermarkets have refused to rule out price rises as the foot-and-mouth crisis continues.

Most chains say they have enough British meat to last the weekend but are arranging supplies from abroad for when that runs out.

Many stores have noticed increased sales of poultry and fish, but there have been few reports of panic buying.

Asda's large store in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, was cleared out of pork and lamb on Thursday, despite the big supermarkets expressing confidence earlier in the week that shoppers would not be hit.

Our British supply is dwindling but there is a lot on the European market

A spokesman for supermarket chain Somerfield admitted that the crisis could push up meat prices if it continued for much longer.

He said: "At this stage we haven't made any changes to our prices but the cost to us has increased.

"We will keep reviewing our prices on an ongoing basis."

Smaller butchers could also be in danger of running out of meat, according to the National Federation of Meat Traders.

NFMT chief Graham Bidston said that if butchers could not get their meat from wholesalers, they would have to turn to imported supplies which would result in a price hike.

Alternative sources

Asda said meat would still be available from its stores, despite the Wakefield shortage.

A spokeswoman said: "It's not the panic buying we saw at the time of the fuel crisis.

"People will still be able to buy meat products. We are already sourcing from Europe, buying beef from Ireland."

A Sainsbury's spokesman said the supermarket would import meat if the British supply dried up.

"We have got British meat supplies which should see us through the weekend and into the start of next week," he said. "Beyond that we will have to source from abroad.

"We will get lamb from New Zealand, beef from Ireland and pork from Denmark and Holland.

"When British meat is available again we want to get it on the shelf as soon as possible."

A Somerfield spokesman said: "We should last through to Sunday or Monday and then we will be putting imported meat on our shelves.

"Our British supply is dwindling but there is a lot on the European market."

Tesco and Waitrose have admitted that importing meat could force them to raise their prices.

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