23 May 2000
Future of Thame market safe

By FWi staff

FARMERS who dug deep into their pockets have finally secured the future of 800-year-old Thame livestock market.

More than 300 farmers pledged their support to buy the market, raising 300,000 to meet the price tag and 200,000 of working capital.

And on 2 June the group, Thame Farmers Auction Mart, will exchange contracts with current owners South East Marts (SEM).

But on the same date, SEM will pull out of Guildford market, ending 700 years of livestock marketing at Surreys last remaining mart.

Established in 1215, Thame market sells about 120 prime cattle 1400 prime sheep each week and is the only livestock market in Oxfordshire.

Heavy losses in recent years – including 500,000 at Guildford – persuaded SEM to quit both markets.

Angry Surrey farmers facing longer journeys to alternative markets drove tractors to the Guildford Borough Council in protest at the decision.

But they were unable to prevent the sale of the site to a developer, and now the Guildford Market Support Group is seeking a new location.

SEM chief executive Nik Askaroff said livestock markets could only survive if farmers were “fully involved and committed to their operation”.

He added: “As a third-party operator it was impossible for SEM to make those markets viable without the full support of the farming community.

“We have incurred heavy losses on both those livestock operations which we can no longer afford to carry.”

He said he was “delighted” Thame had been sold to farmers and pledged to assist the Guildford Market Support Group in its search for a new venue.