29 November 1998
Livestock markets reject Tesco offer

By Isabel Davies

AUCTIONEERS have rejected a proposal by Tesco which would allow the supermarket giant to use livestock markets as collection points for animals bought direct from farmers.

In a move which shows the determination of livestock markets to go it alone during increasingly difficult times, the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA) rejected the idea out of hand.

“It would be much better if retailers such as Tesco would be willing to purchase direct from markets,” said John Martin, LAA secretary.

Mr Martin said Tescos suggestion to use markets as collection points was just one item in a general discussion held with supermarket representatives. No specific markets were mentioned, he said.

David Sawday, Tescos corporate affairs manager, said the proposal was first made about 18 months ago. It was an attempt to demonstrate that the supermarkets policy of buying direct was not part of some kind of “plot to destroy livestock markets and undermine pricing structures,” he said.

Tesco had hoped that the move would demonstrate that it wanted to accommodate farmer and industry concerns about the future of livestock auctions, said Mr Sawday.

Using markets as collection centres would utilise market facilities and contacts, he said. It would also help producers who wanted to sell only a proportion of their livestock direct to the supermarket.

Auctioneers are expected to reject the open offer of playing a role in direct buying when they meet Tesco representatives again in December.

Less than a month ago, livestock leaders forged a new alliance to defend live auction markets against what they claimed was excessive supermarket buying power.

The countrys four biggest supermarket chains are currently being investigated by the Office of Fair Trading. John Bridgeman, director general of fair trading, said concerns about the power of supermarkets was something of a “recurrent theme” for his department.