Trade lukewarm on Scots marts
By Andrew Shirley
NEWS that some Scottish livestock marts could be open for business this autumn has been given a cautious welcome by the industry.
The move was announced in a statement by the Scottish Executives rural development minister Ross Finnie last Thursday (July 5). "From September, and subject to no deterioration in the overall disease position, I could foresee some form of sales outside previously infected areas."
However, the restrictions mean sales south of the Forth/Clyde line are unlikely to get the go ahead, and seasonal movements of breeding and store animals will still be severely hampered.
"The statement provides some hope but will be a disappointment to buyers and sellers who depend on the earlier sheep breeding sales in August," said John Kinnaird, vice president of NFU Scotland.
"On both welfare and commercial grounds it will be essential to put in place alternative arrangements to allow these sheep to be traded and moved."
Despite the limitations auctioneers are also relieved that some form of respite looks to be on the horizon. "No other sector has been shut down for so long, this is like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey," said William Blair of the Institute of Scottish Auctioneers and Appraisers.
He blames bureaucracy for the lack of any further details. "As yet there is nothing hard and fast to go on, many of the people developing these regulations seem to have no practical experience and sit in offices all day."
Despite the newly found breathing space for producers north of the border, stock farmers in England and Wales are yet to receive any similar good news.
"Some form of action needs to be taken soon, if stock cannot be moved by late summer we will have a major welfare disaster on our hands this autumn," pointed out Peter Kingwill, chairman of the Livestock Auctioneers Association.
"Farmers need to know details now so they can plan ahead and take any necessary remedial action."
Mr Kingwill is also concerned that the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs seems to be making policy based on the worst case scenario. "There has to be a realistic recognition of the risks involved.
"After all, regional sales were soon up and running after the 1967 outbreak without any problems," he added.