By Peter Crichton

BURY St Edmunds livestock market was once billed as the largest one-day pig auction in the UK. Now, it is to close.

Market operators Lacy Scott and Knight made their shock announcement on 6 November, and the market will shut for good on 16 December.

The news was greeted with surprise by the regions pig farmers, and was described by one as “another nail in the coffin of free competition.”

Market bosses blamed falling pig prices and numbers, supermarket pressure to buy direct and high operating costs.

Until a couple of years ago, the auctioneers handled between 2500 and 3000 pigs every Wednesday and a further 600 to 800 at their Wickham Market livestock centre, which closed exactly a year earlier. Numbers have recently slumped to average 1000 pigs per week.

Development pressure on Burys town-centre site and attention from animal rights activists are also reported to have added to the difficulties faced by the auctioneers. This closure means there are no longer any livestock auctions in Suffolk and marks the end of a market first recorded in the 14th century.

With most live pig auctions facing similar challenges including greater traceability and welfare demands by retailers it is hard to see how many will survive into the nex century. The Bury news comes hard on the heels of the surprise Banbury market closure announced at the end of May.