10 July 1998

Auctioneers bleak future

LIVESTOCK auctioneers face a torrid future as demand for their services diminishes and farmers turn increasingly to direct selling.

"The shift towards deadweight marketing has been driven by the need for traceability and the increasing importance of quality assurance schemes," says the Meat and Livestock Commission in a report on the future of the meat industry, launched at this weeks Royal Show.

"Deadweight classification also enables the buyer to pay the producer a price which more closely corresponds to quality and precise market requirements."

This trend started in earnest in 1993/94, says the report. There was a particularly sharp fall in the proportion of cattle sold liveweight (from 54% to 44%) in 1996, due to the OTMS scheme with cull cows going direct to abattoirs.

Economic pressure is expected to continue into the next century, leading to further market closures. In 1997 there were some 246 auction marts in Great Britain – half the number that existed in the early 1970s.

The MLC predicts that there will be just 150 remaining by 2005.

"As a consequence of the fall in numbers, the average throughput of cattle and sheep can be expected to increase strongly," says the report.

"Auction marts will continue to have a major role in store and breeding animals." &#42

Philip Clarke