3 August 2001

Autumn hopes of mart reopenings

GOVERNMENT officials met farm leaders this week to discuss a possible autumn resumption of livestock markets across Britain, as live sales began again in Northern Ireland.

Brisk trade was reported at cattle sales across Ulster, the first since foot-and-mouth disease struck in February. The development was hailed as a huge boost for the cattle farmers.

DEFRA minister Margaret Beckett recently said the government is considering resuming livestock markets in counties free of F&M.

This is one of a series of measures to help livestock farmers that could be put in place from Sept 1, she said.

NFU livestock adviser Kevin Pearce said much will depend on how quickly the government implements plans to redefine F&M infected areas by county.

If this happens soon there are real prospects that sales could resume in September, albeit with stringent conditions attached, particularly if sheep sales are allowed, he said. "There are huge parts of Britain clear of F&M where sales could resume."

Ulster Farmers Union president Douglas Rowe said the resumption of sales in NI has boosted morale among cattle farmers. "We will continue to urge DARD to re-open sheep sales at the earliest possible opportunity." &#42