LIVESTOCK auction markets across England and Wales are contributing at least £3.42 billion to the UK economy and supporting over 3,000 jobs, says recent report.

The report, published by independent economic analyst Sean Rickard and commissioned by the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA), investigated the total economic contribution generated by the markets and how this stretches beyond the direct support to the livestock industry and farmers.

As livestock farms are small businesses they have little market power when compared to large scale, corporate food companies. Put simply, they are weak sellers if entering into private negotiations with powerful buyers, and risk a transaction that under-values their animals. In contrast, selling livestock in an open-cry auction market will guarantee a fair price.

Sean Rickard said: “Auction markets are not only intuitive and transparent, but as neither buyer or seller can unfairly influence the price, they ensure the price is ‘fair’ – it accurately reflects current demand based on available information.”

Wider economic impact

On a wider economic scale, the report showed that the 110 livestock auction markets in England and Wales directly employ some 2,599 people, generating a turnover of £1.76 billion. By using Office of National Statistics (ONS) calculations, this direct expenditure injected into the economy is boosted by a further £1.66 billion of indirect and induced expenditure, totalling £3.42 billion to the economy.

Following the same ONS calculations, livestock markets contribute total employment to the equivalent of 3095 full-time jobs. However, these figures don’t consider the total contribution of ancillary businesses, such as farm supply stores, located on-site or nearby.

South West Farmer:

Frome Livestock Market - auction ring

Sean said: “The estimated expenditure and employment set out in the report is a significant underestimate of the total contributions of auction markets, because the values do not include the expenditure and employment generated by businesses located within their sites, or in close proximity."

Wider value

Other general benefits of the livestock auctions were in maintaining high levels of animal welfare, which are essential to their success, and providing both a social and business hub for the agricultural sector.

Farming has become an increasingly isolated and lonely occupation, and the social networking the auction market provides should not be underestimated.

Sean added: “Auctions not only provide an opportunity to socialise, but it is now common for auction markets to provide facilities where farmers can meet with trained social and/or health workers to share their concerns and if appropriate directly address issues raised by stress and illness."

Chris Dodds, executive secretary of the LAA said: “The report clearly identifies that without livestock auction markets, farmers would be in a far worse position due to lack of competition, and livestock numbers across England and Wales would inevitably fall. "Knock-on effects to the wider rural economy would be devastating. The farming community must get behind and support its livestock auction markets.”