Scotland’s livestock auctioneers have issued a stark message to farmers that complacency over Covid-19 restrictions could jeopardise the future of critical autumn sales.
As coronavirus clusters grow, the vulnerability of the high-stakes arrangements in place at marts have been highlighted, along with the warning that a single outbreak traced back to a mart could lead to its closure and have implications for the whole farming industry.
United Auctions director Donald Young, new president of the Scottish Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers, appealed to everyone attending marts to “play it safe” by strictly observing public health physical distancing guidelines.
He said: “We have worked hard as an industry to ensure Scotland’s livestock marts have remained open throughout lockdown and we want to ensure the trade fully continues for all of our vendors and buyers.
“We appreciate it’s hard given that it is usually a time for seeing friends and shaking hands, but we would ask you to please wear your masks if you can, keep your two-metre distance and only attend if you really need to. These are essential short-term measures for long-term gain for all involved.”
Measures in place at marts involve staggering places at the ringside, live-streaming sales to different rings within the mart, spreading sales over two days and restricting access to penning areas.
Farmers’ union president Andrew McCornick backed the auctioneers’ message, and said it was imperative that the marts remained operational.
“Marts provide vital price transparency and should they be forced to close, everyone involved in the livestock trade would suffer,” he said.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing added his voice to the appeal and called on all producers to familiarise themselves with the guidelines.
He said: “We know coronavirus continues to pose real risks across the country. Maintaining progress means we all need to abide by public health guidance, which matters now more than ever.”
For guidelines on how sales will be operating, visit the auctioneers website (iaas.co.uk) or contact your mart.