Exeter City Council has explained its decision to allow the Exeter Farmer's Market to go ahead as normal on Thursday morning.

Exeter Farmer's Market, at the corner of Fore Street and South Street in the city centre, is open for business between 9am and 2pm, although with the location of stalls altered slightly to take into account social distancing measures.

Food markets are exempt from the government’s closure order, and most of the food producers who attend the market every week had vowed to be there to allow people to purchase food direct from the producers.

With food shortages in some areas, the Farmer’s Market is designed to alleviate some of the shortages, the city council said, adding they expected people to visit the market as part of their shopping trip for basic necessities and to socially distance themselves.

But the decision to allow it to continue the market had drawn criticism on social media.

One person said: “I’m sorry I can’t agree, the market should not take place. While I do support local produce, there are other ways that would not encourage people to leave there homes and mixed with other members of the public.”

A second, although not strictly accurate as the UK is not on lockdown, said: “Disgraceful of you to let it go ahead in the middle of a pandemic and when we are supposed to be on lockdown. Irresponsible.”

Explaining the decision though, a city council spokesman said: “Exeter City Council has refocussed nearly everything it does in the past weeks to support our city, including launching a £1million community fund yesterday.We have closed nearly all of our facilities in line with government guidance.

“With food shortages in some areas, the Farmer’s Market, like the cattle auctions still taking place at the Matford Centre, are designed to alleviate some of the shortages.

“The market takes some of the weight off the supermarkets and also helps the food producers to minimise food waste because many of them have no other outlets for their produce. They are exempt under government closure orders for a reason.

“We fully expect people to visit the market as part of their shopping trip for basic necessities and to socially distance themselves.

“The council will continue to review the decision and will close the facility immediately should government advice change or it becomes impractical or unsafe.”

They added: “The City Council is backing this initiative because it will help take some of the strain from the supermarkets and it helps our local producers to sustain their businesses.

“Customers are asked to think very carefully about how they get to the market and everyone should observe the social distancing instructions when there.  It will help the producers and other customers greatly if you can make your purchase and then quickly move away. ”