THROUGHPUT at Scottish auction marts dropped by almost 30% on the year during 1998, the lowest for 22 years.
The total number of stock handled was down from 4.9m to 4.6m but the cash value fell from £492m to £348m.
The figures reflect the economic crisis which has hit Scottish agriculture in the past year. “As an integral part of the industry we have felt the knock-on effect of lower stock prices,” said John Neil, president of the Scottish Institute of Auctioneers.
Losses are being reported and rates, water, and effluent treatment charges are being increased. Rumours abound about possible mergers.
Lanark-based Lawrie and Symington this week reported a trading loss of £261,000 for the past year compared with a profit of £140,000 in the previous 12 months.
“It is all due to lower commission on reduced stock values, but we are also facing extra charges at every turn,” said managing director, Hunter Murray. His rates bill has just gone up by £26,000 to £137,000. There is talk of a merger between Lawrie and Symington and Caledonian Marts of Stirling. The possible sale of either Perth or Stirling centres owned by United Auctions has gone quiet. The firms latest figures showed half-year losses of £600,000.
Wallets Marts at Castle Douglas hope to break even but managing director, Robin Anderson, said increased rates and water charges would make life increasingly difficult and without any sign of a significant rise in stock prices.
Brian Pack, chief executive of the Aberdeenshire-based ANM Group, is appealing a rates bill of £400,000 for the Thainstone Centre at Inverurie.