16 November 2001

Frome market eyes the future

FROME Market is confident it will survive the financial crisis facing livestock markets after months of lost income and is relishing the chance to reopen next year.

Situated in Somerset, Frome is in the heart of a large milk producing area. Even so, the market has always attracted a fair number of lambs and finished and store cattle.

David Lock, a senior auctioneer and director for Premier Livestock Auctions, the company that runs the market, reckons the current downturn is on top of nearly six years of financial pressure.

This happened when extra food safety measures were heaped on to abattoirs and the costs were passed back down the food chain to markets and producers, placing incomes at livestock marts under threat.

But with no livestock markets since the end of February, Frome has successfully sought other avenues to raise income. These have focused on striking private deals between clients, acting as a cleansing and disinfectant centre and processing OTMS cattle and slaughter calves every Tuesday, says Mr Lock. Serious consideration is also being given to a store cattle collection centre.

Restructured

Frome Market has also restructured following its move to an out-of-town location in 1990 and is now less reliant on auctions to provide all the revenue. At its current site it boasts a range of non-farming enterprises, including a fully licensed café, a legal practice, a property consultants, a bank and an insurance agent, while on market days there is also a fresh fruit and bread stall.

Throughout the foot-and-mouth epidemic, trading has continued in difficult circumstances, says Mr Lock. "It is only now as Christmas is approaching and stock supplies are tightening that abattoirs have started to ring us to source animals."

Even though prices have picked up recently, Mr Lock firmly believes farmers would still be better off using an auction system. "In a market, buyers have to bid and this forces them to pay more when supplies tighten.

"Last week I had bids up to 160p/kg deadweight for R4L grade FABBL steers." And lamb prices are averaging 160p-170p/kg – 20p-30p up on prices six weeks ago. &#42

David Lock: Livestock markets are the best way to get the fairest price.