8 January 1999

Auctioneers are hoping for a more buoyant livestock trade this year.

Fingers crossed for livestock trade lift

Forget 1998. The big

question now is whether

things will get any better in

1999. FW asks auctioneers

what is needed to bring an

upturn in the livestock

industry in the months

ahead…

A SPEEDY resumption of the beef export trade is high on Chippenham auctioneer Peter Kingwills wish list.

"We have the amber light and are revving up to go," he says. But potential obstacles – such as the need for designated abattoirs – still exist.

"We need a workable system that is unencumbered by too much paperwork. It must work for the exporter and the farmer. A fledgling export market could, after all, be fairly easily strangled at birth."

The money markets will be crucial, says Mr Kingwill. Successful overseas business depends greatly on a weaker £, which could result from a strong euro and further falls in interest rates taking them nearer Continental levels.

Not only will a weaker sterling help exports, it will also make imports less attractive in comparison with domestic product. "This is necessary for the whole of industry – not just agriculture," he says.

Mr Kingwill also hopes that more beef animals will be reared when the calf slaughter scheme is scrapped in March. "We were concerned about the number being killed. This will restore the pipeline of supply."

A boost to the export trade is also much needed by the sheep sector, says Northampton auctioneer Brian Pile. More live shipping will open up continental markets, bringing more competition.

"I cant see what the producer can do. Most have already gone FABBL and are showing lambs at the right level of condition and cleanliness. But it looks very sad – I cant see how prices will lift otherwise.

"The trade needs some injection of confidence soon at the finished end," says Mr Pile. "This would then knock right back through the industry, helping breeding and store prices."

An upturn would be especially welcome with big numbers of lambs likely to hit the market in the first few months of the year, after farmers delayed selling in the face of bad prices. "There were plenty of people that would have sold them in September – but didnt fancy 90p/kg. They didnt fancy 50p in December, either."

Higher prices for pork and beef would also help buoy the sheep sector, adds Mr Pile.

Derek Biss, of Greenslade Taylor Hunt, predicts another difficult 12 months ahead for dairy farmers with herds of 100 head and below under particular pressure.

Producers, he says, want higher milk prices and quota leasing values of about 5-6p/litre.

The smaller units are faced with higher costs – such as dairy equipment and waste disposal – if they wish to expand. "The vast majority of such farmers will seriously consider getting out in the next 12 months, especially if the leasing price stays where it is."

Dispersals will not be so motivated by tax factors in the coming months, says Mr Biss. "Its simply a case of the level of workload and the level of reward.

"We need a complete turnaround in the agricultural economy." &#42