FARMERS ARE returning to markets in full force after foot-and-mouth disease almost wiped out the livestock trade three years ago.

The Livestock Auctioneers Association of England and Wales saw an overall boost in trade of 25% last year.

By the end of 2003, the 140 member markets had registered an increase in head of cattle of 111,000 (to 696,000) compared to 2002, while sheep numbers rose by 495,000 to 2.16m

LAEW chairman Bruce Daniel said: “We are well on the road to recovery after the disastrous year of 2001. It has been a struggle but farmers are returning to the fold in their droves and once again putting their trust in markets.”

 “In a sense we are the victims of our own success – we worked very hard during Foot and Mouth to put farmers in touch with one another so they could deal direct – and now we have to win back this business.”

“However, we have much to offer and we are confident that we will return to the trading figures we saw before Foot and Mouth in the very near future,” Mr Daniel said.