Woe, woe and thrice woe as we await the possible, and some say probable, war with Iraq. At the time of writing, the signs were that the war would begin some time between the middle and end of March.

Hopefully, something will be sorted out one way or another and the uncertainty that overhangs the marketplace will finally be resolved.

For some months, the market has been steady to edging downwards. Kills have been good and hides have been moving. There is no feeling that hides are building up in warehouses but buyers are price conscious and any attempt to get even a slightly higher price has been met with a firm refusal. World economies are in a poor state and taxes will rise to pay for a war with Iraq and this will cause a drop in demand.

Cattle kills fell in early March as abattoirs could not make a profit due to high cattle prices and low demand for beef. This reduction in numbers did not result in higher hide prices.

Prices for hides in early March were as follows:

36kg+ …………………………….. 91p

31/35/5kg ……………………… £1.03

26/30.5kg ……………………… £1.08

22/25.5kg ……………………… £1.18

Tanners reported that they had bought under these prices but no sellers admitted selling for lower prices.

The cow kill fell in February and March in line with seasonal expectations and it was felt that low prices might rise. There was also speculation that the government might review the whole cull scheme.

The cull scheme for over thirty month cattle (OTM) is a huge cost for the government. The only part of the animal that is used is the hide. There are suggestions that if the OTM cattle were tested for BSE and found to be clear of the disease, then the meat could go for human consumption. It would, therefore, follow that the hide could be exported in the wet-salted state. This would lead to an immediate rise in the value of cows as tanners would not have to pay for the expensive treatment of the fleshings and trimmings from culled hides. However, it must be stressed that these proposals are only speculation at this time. Salted cows on the run were sold at £24.50 ex yard.

The doubleface market has finally finished and hoggs are effectively sold as fellmongering skins. Some doubleface contracts were cancelled by Turkish tanners at the end of February again because of fears over Iraq. Prices for skins at the end of February were £3.70 ex yard.