COMMODITY BRIEFS

COMMODITY BRIEFS

MERRILL CONFIRMS TALKS

TO BUY ELDERS FUTURESA Merrill Lynch spokesman confirmed that the brokerage house has a preliminary agreement to purchase Elders Futures Inc., the futures and options arm of Elders Finance Group.

Officials of Merrill and Elders wouldn't disclose terms of the agreement.

Sources within Elders Futures said Merrill plans to fold the group into its own operations, rather than continue it under the Elders name.

FRENCH BAN OF UK BEEF

SPURS CALLS FOR ACTION

LONDON - U.K. Agriculture Minister John Gummer has written to EC Agriculture Commissioner Ray McSharry asking that the French ban on imports of British beef be resolved as a matter of urgency, a spokesman for the U.K. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food told Knight-Ridder Financial News.

In a statement Mr. Gummer said, "The French action was unwarranted, unjustified and contrary to EC law . . . ."

West Germany banned live cattle, beef and offal from cattle that could not be guaranteed to be free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow disease." But an intervention by Mr. Gummer caused West Germany to allow imports so long as the beef was deboned and accompanied by a certificate.