The new year has arrived carrying the baggage from the old year. The case of BSE in a cow in the USA was confirmed during the Christmas shut down and the effect of this was yet to be determined at the time of writing.

The US dollar continued to weaken as expected and the pundits are forecasting further falls, at least until the presidential elections in November. If this does turn out to be the case then we may expect a gradually falling market for the first few months of 2004.

The news that the Rover car company ceased production for three days in December on top of a similar move in November is symptomatic of slow car sales and this may be reflected in reduced demand from

tanners. Kills are expected to remain good for January and February and if there are no restrictions on the shipment of hides to Asian countries then all of these factors will combine to ease the market back.

The one area where there might be a little room for improvement would be in cows. If the cow kill does fall in America, as is thought to be likely, then wet-blue cows to China from the UK may become more attractive to Chinese tanners, even with the looming Chinese new year. Cow prices are very low, in the region of £18-19 ($32-34) per salted hide which would translate into a $56 delivered price in wet-blue. These prices would allow a possible shortfall of American cows to be covered by UK wet-blue. Cow kills in the UK are expected to be fairly high in January and February.

Other prices for hides quoted for pick up in early January were as follows:

36kg+ …………………….. 72-75p

31-35.5kg ……………….. 72-78p

26-30.5kg ……………….. 80-84p

22-25.5kg …………………….. 95p

There are a lot of hides in warehouses, reported as sold but not yet shipped.

Lambskin business stayed steady with cow kills matched by low demand. Poland has lost its interest for the present and high prices are still being paid to the slaughterhouses. Doubleface increased slightly to £6 ($11) ex yard and fellmongers slipped to £3.65 ($6.60). The % of doubleface in a run of skins continued to fall as is the seasonal norm.