17 May 2002

Uncertainty for some auctions

MOST markets have reopened, according to a new survey, but some face an uncertain future.

The Livestock Auctioneers Associations recent survey puts the number of markets open as 142, which is about 30 short of pre-foot-and-mouth levels. And its results showed that only two more markets are shutting their gates – Pembroke in Wales and Brickfield on the Isle of Wight.

David Brown, secretary of the organisation, says it was hardly surprising that either of these markets were closing, as Pembroke was a very old site and the other conducted little business.

"Of the markets that have not reopened yet, few do not intend to. I reckon there is only about another 10 that will not open and that is probably the same number as we would have expected to lose through natural wastage."

This latest survey follows an initial one by farmers weekly, when markets were given the go-ahead on Feb 11, and more recent updates by DEFRA, whose latest estimate has 128 markets as open, with a further 30 hoping to.

It is expected that a maximum of 8% of markets will be lost through F&M, but Mr Brown fears that financial problems could be being stored up for a later date.

"Unless we can get the 20-day rule moved there could be many more shutting. When operators analyse their accounts in six to nine months time there could be problems. We need higher throughputs and the 20-day rule is a killer." &#42