Farmers’ Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan today commended the decision by Pembrokeshire auctioneers J J Morris to cancel a Red Market sale at Whitland.

Mr Vaughan also called on farmers and auctioneers to stand firm against aggressive moves by processors and supermarkets to pass their overheads on to farmers via the auction markets.

The Whitland sale was due to have been held today, and would have involved the sale of some 120 cattle from farms under TB restrictions.

"The cancellation of Wednesday's Red Market at Whitland comes as a huge blow to Welsh farms that are under TB restrictions and had animals booked in to the sale" said Mr Vaughan.

"These businesses need to move animals off their holdings as soon as possible in order to alleviate the huge pressures that accompany TB movement restrictions, and the decision will add significantly to the problems in the area, and could even affect the Welsh Assembly's TB control programme," said Mr Vaughan.

"However, the industry should not give in to this kind of intimidation by supermarkets and abattoirs, and I commend the stance taken by the livestock auctions.

"Moves by abattoirs and supermarkets to levy farmers, whether via the livestock markets or otherwise, should be resisted. If we bow to this it could be the thin edge of the wedge.

"At what point will the auctioneers then be asked to deduct fixed charges to cover water and electricity bills, or other abattoir or supermarket overheads?

"The bottom line is that this is a public health issue, and should either be picked up by government or passed down the chain to supermarkets and other customers."

Mr Vaughan added that he was deeply suspicious about the apparently coordinated way in which the livestock auctioneers had been asked to levy farmers.

"The way in which some appear to have stood together on this issue smacks of collusion. Companies that work together in order to manipulate the market place risk falling foul of the law, and we shall pass on any evidence of such practices to the Office of Fair Trading."

"It is disgraceful that the supermarkets and abattoirs may make the TB situation worse due to tactics that are effectively designed to drive farmgate prices down."