"It is impossible to say with certainty what a greater volume of Brazilian beef on the European market would do for Scottish producer prices.

However, it is almost certain that it would lead to lower farm-gate prices and greater volatility in those prices."

That was the view of Stuart Ashworth, economist with Quality Meat Scotland when he addressed an audience of livestock farmers in Bridge of Allan yesterday.

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Mr Ashworth's comments were in response to MEP Alyn Smith's report on his recent study tour of Brazil's beef industry.

That trip was prompted by the possibility of a EU-Mercosur trade agreement in the pipeline, with an EU-Brazil agreement waiting in the sidelines if Mercosur continues to falter.

Substantial restrictions were imposed in 2008 on the Brazilian beef trade with the EU in the wake of foot and mouth in the UK. In simple terms, Brazil can now only supply Europe from an authorised list of approved cattle farms.

The restrictions led to UK imports collapsing, and, although imports doubled last year, they are still 85% lower than in 2007.

In addition to the approved farm requirements, the European beef market is also shielded by significant import tariffs - but that could change if a trade deal is negotiated.

Mr Smith reminded the meeting that international trade agreements have the potential to severely impact farming, and that the repercussions of these deals would also be felt across the rest of Scottish society.

He said: "It is for that reason it is vital those negotiating these deals fully understand the situation on the ground, not just in Scotland and the rest of the EU, but also in the lands we are negotiating with."

Mr Smith went on to say that the European market was not Brazil's top priority. "I don't expect to see a wave of cheap beef flooding our market. Even with the tariff reductions that could follow a trade deal, the European market is still not their priority when there are easier markets like China, Russia and the Middle East ready and waiting for their product."

The Cumberland and Dumfriesshire Farmers Mart sold 63 store heifers in Dumfries yesterday to average 195.4p per kg, while 100 store bullocks levelled at 206.3p.

Thirty store Holstein bullocks averaged 147.5p and 16 young bulls levelled at 222.7p.

John Swan Ltd sold 26 prime bullocks in St Boswells yesterday to average 212.3p (-0.7p on the week), while 56 prime heifers levelled at 215.2p (+2.8p).

In the rough ring 38 beef-type OTM cattle averaged 138.1p (+3.1p).

There were also 2221 prime hoggs that averaged 157.3p (+14p) and 320 cast sheep that levelled at £45.66 (-£4.69).

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 1452 prime hoggs at Ayr yesterday to average 152.6p (+6.9p), while 305 cast ewes sold to £82 for Texels and £47.50 for Blackfaces.