More than 100 farmers have gathered in Wales to demand the reopening of their local livestock market after rumours circulated it may remained closed once coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Powys County Council has since said there are no plans to close the market permanently.
Farmers parked in Builth Wells Market car park on Sunday afternoon (14 June), stayed in their cars to observe social distancing and hooted their horns to demonstrate their desire to see the mart reopen as soon as possible.
Auctioneer Brightwells, which runs the market, said due to coronavirus restrictions it is unable to plan for holding livestock auctions, so they remain closed until further notice.
Some farmers are frustrated that similar markets are still managing to operate with a drop-and-go system.
The market has been closed since lockdown began in March, and the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) said it was “extremely concerned” by the rumours it might not reopen at all.
A spokesperson for Powys County Council said: “There is no truth in the rumours. The council has no plans to close the market permanently.
“The livestock market is leased to Brightwells, so it will be their decision on when the livestock market can safely open.”
Clear desire to reopen
David Price, a farmer and county councillor who attended the gathering on Sunday, said everyone was “united in a clear desire to see the mart reopen”.
In a social media post he said: “Always remarkable how a rural community can unite in something they are passionate about.
“Thanks to the police officers who had a discreet presence today, and expressed their contentment for the manner in which it was organised and conducted. Over 100 vehicles hooting their horns.”
Mr Price thanked local farmer Rob Powell for organising the gathering.
Daniel James, a sheep and pig farmer who lives five miles away from the market, said farmers had no idea when the market would reopen.
“It is the fear of the unknown, it is closed and we haven’t been told when it will reopen so people are worried it won’t reopen at all.
“I’ve got one market 12 miles away and another one 35 miles away. It means more journey time and more vehicles on the roads.”
Catrin Price, FUW Brecon and Radnor county executive chair, said the market is a vital lifeline in Builth Wells and for the farming community.
“If this market closes permanently, farmers will have to travel much further to sell their stock, which will eat into already dwindling returns on livestock and adds further to the pressure the industry is already under – not just from Covid-19 but also, of course, Brexit.
“The worry always is that if a mart shuts, it will not reopen and new sites are rarely found.”
The FUW said it was liaising with Powys County Council and Brightwells, and would do everything it could to see the market reopened as soon as possible.
Irving Parry, director and chairman of Brightwells, said: “The directors of Brightwells are currently in discussions with the cabinet holder responsible for livestock markets and officers of Powys County Council with regard to future reopening.”