30 November 2001

Sign up for our campaign

farmers weekly and the

Livestock Auctioneers

Association have joined forces

to launch a campaign to resume

live market sales. We want

you to back this initiative

too. As James Garner

discovers, it might be vital

for your business health

THREE leading farming organisations have agreed to back the Livestock Auctioneers Associations and farmers weeklys new campaign to Save Our Markets.

The NFU, the National Beef Association and the National Sheep Association have all lent their support to our initiative, launched this week, to get livestock marts back in business in England and Wales in the New Year.

We want your help too. By signing the letter addressed to Lord Whitty, junior DEFRA minister, and returning it to us at farmers weekly, producers can help secure the future of marts up and down the country.

All four organisations backing this campaign believe that live animal sales should resume early in the New Year under practical biosecurity arrangements. This will also mark a time, barring further outbreaks, when three months will have passed since the last case of foot-and-mouth.

The LAAs chairman, Peter Kingwill, has always believed this was the timetable, providing serological blood testing was complete in infected areas. Scotland followed this schedule and it seemed reasonable to assume that England and Wales would follow too, he says.

But now the LAA believes that the government is stalling. Its members are already facing 10 months of lost revenue and still do not know what changes they might have to implement to stay in operation. It is becoming impossible for them to run a business.

Livestock farmers too, have lost out. There is no doubt that poor stock prices during F&M have been largely due to closures. Markets transparency helps fix prices for cattle and sheep. Without this, producers have had to accept prices offered by the processors, or go without.

Tim Bennett, deputy president of the NFU, says his union has been lobbying the government to reopen markets in F&M-free counties for some time, and he is right behind this latest initiative.

"Producers have suffered an awful year and it is important that there is more competition to allow the market to work.

"In the early days of F&M when there was restricted marketing, producers had to take the price that was offered. Some certainly felt they were being ripped off. We need to get back to having a genuine market-place."

Markets vital

John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, agrees. "Markets are absolutely vital. They are an accurate barometer of price and without them we are largely in the hands of the big retailers.

"They also provide a place where breeding and store animals can be exchanged efficiently. No other system works as well."

Robert Forster, chief executive of the National Beef Association, backs this up, pointing out how important markets are in selling a wide range of stock including store and cull animals as well as primestock and dairy-bred calves.

"Auction markets are the only real place to allow small batches of dairy-bred calves to be sold on to finishers in consolidated loads. They also establish national prices for primestock – otherwise, you get small clusters of prices that reflect marketing ability." &#42

Backing the campaign to Save Our Markets (left to right): Robert Forster, head of the National Beef Association, Peter Kingwill, chairman of the Livestock Auctioneers Association, Ian Frood, vice-chairman of the NFUs livestock committee, and John Thorley, head of the National Sheep Association.

Lord Whitty

DEFRA

Nobel House

17 Smith Square

London SW1P 3JR

Dear Lord Whitty,

Re: Opening of livestock markets

For the sake of livestock farmers and the UKs livestock industry it is imperative that auction markets reopen as soon as possible in the New Year. This is with the proviso that there is a three-month clear period between the last case of foot-and-mouth and the commencement of sales. We feel that the livestock auction sector is now being made to suffer unnecessarily because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak. Since livestock markets have been shut we have not had the flexibility to market our animals as we would wish and have been left without an auction system to establish a true market value. While accepting this was a necessary evil because of the national crisis, we now believe the time is right to allow livestock markets to trade again, under reasonable biosecurity measures.

We, therefore, suggest that you consider the following:

1. The resumption of livestock auctions for cattle and sheep in the New Year, operating under practical biosecurity measures.

2. That all classes of cattle and sheep sales can take place on the same premises on the same day.

3. That the 20-day rule be removed as soon as possible.

Yours faithfully,

Name …………………………………………………………………………………

Occupation…………………………………………………………………………..

Address……………………………………………………………………………….

………………………………………………………………………………………….

………………………………………………Postcode……………………………

Please return your letters to Save Our Markets, farmers weekly, FREEPOST (CN2908), Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5BR.

Should you wish to withhold your address, please sign the letter and attach your address on a separate sheet.