'We need to feed the nation': South Shropshire farmers issue plea to keep livestock markets trading
Farmers throughout South Shropshire have issued a plea to keep "vital" livestock markets open throughout the coronavirus pandemic, saying the public could soon become "reliant" on their services.
Concerns have been raised they will be forced to close down as part of the tighter restrictions being introduced to try and stop the spread of Covid-19.
But agricultural bosses pointed out "the nation needs to fed" and that with the shelves of supermarkets being cleared, relying on importation when the UK industry has cattle to be sold is not sustainable.
Well-known farmer Richard Yates, who is the former chairman of Shropshire National Farmers' Union and runs farms in Middleton Scriven, said: "It's a very uncertain time at the moment. We clearly have animals that are ready to go to market and have reached their prime condition. We need those markets open for us to be able to feed our nation and we must feed our nation.
"It's of major concern that some markets are already closing. The Hereford market is shut and there are a number of markets in the north of the country and in Scotland that have suspended operations.
"But we are hopeful livestock markets will be allowed to continue to trade – that's a fluid situation that moves on a daily basis but currently they are open for prime lamb and cattle."
The calls are being echoed by market bosses throughout the region.
Tish Dockerty, market manager of Ludlow Local Produce Market, said the public would rely more on the local agricultural industry in coming weeks.
She said: "The job of farmers goes on, and now is a busy time for them anyway. We will become reliant on them soon and I support them in every way."
Following a meeting with the National Farmers' Union, Mr Yates added that discussions were ongoing to keep the markets running or find alternative ways of functioning should they close.
He added: "We're exploring options to trade online should the livestock markets close. Famers have memories of 2001 with the foot & mouth outbreak, markets were shut down for a year but trade still continued.
"We have to ensure our nation is fed. As we're all aware the shelves in supermarkets are empty. We have that food and we'd love to be able feed the nation."
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