AFTER an enforced two-months sabbatical, the Ryedale Farmers Market returned on Saturday in glorious sunshine to the sheep shed in Malton Livestock Market.

Hoards of shoppers descended on the market, as did the poultry people, which made the whole scene buzz like something of old.

There was a terrific selection of goodies on offer to suit every palate and a better choice of quality, locally-produced goods you would be hard pushed to find.

The stall holders reported record trade, with two of them having sold out by 11.15am, so the message is quite clear; get there in good time before they have gone!

There was a total of 31 stall holders, offering a wonderful selection of goods, and there was a great turnout in the fur & feather department, with a further 80 lots in the garden sundry section. At the busiest time, it looked more like last year's Countryside March as opposed to the Farmers Market in Malton!

In the absence of a normal market report, we thought this a suitable time to print our first 'Fur & Feather Price News' as approved by MLC!

There were 156 lots forward in all categories; goslings were a keen trade and made up to £5.50/head; bitch ferrets up to £6.50; and the show stopper was an £11 rabbit, which has broken new bounds!

Other good items included Buff Orpingtons at £6.50/head, guinea fowl £6, geese at £7 and Welsummer pullets at £8/head.

All in all a very good day's trade but there was some excellent stuff on offer.

The poultry market dates for June are as follows: Friday 1st, Friday 8th, Friday 15th, Friday 22nd & Friday 30th in conjunction with our next Ryedale Farmers Market.

Come and support and join in the fun.

The establishment of collection centres at livestock markets would be a vital step on the return to normality, but the lack of rapid response time reflects in a way the criticism levelled at MAFF throughout this crisis.

After almost three weeks, we are little further on than when we started and, if our experience has been repeated during the past few months, then it is little wonder that the disease has spread like wildfire.

We would make 20-30 phone calls to the State Veterinary Service, each one taking them and us time to deal with. Our question only had to be answered once and the delay did little else but cause frustration and cost money.

But we must now look forward, and if our applications progress with reasonable speed then York may be open on Monday next and Malton on Tuesday.

Please note the following ground rules apply:

- No stock can come to a collecting centre unless it is licensed to do so and we have found a slaughter house prepared to take it.

- Cattle and sheep are the only species allowed in - no pigs.

- Delivery of all stock will be programmed between 7-11am, and we will have to give you an estimated time of arrival.

- It goes without saying that transport vehicles will have to be cleansed and disinfected after use.

Once having got approval for Malton and York, it is pretty essential that we make use of the facilities if we are to achieve progress towards greater freedom of animal movement. The next stage must be to seriously consider restarting the OTMS Scheme and thereafter perhaps the movement of store cattle.

Please contact the help lines listed below.

One of the little-publicised side effects of the FMD crisis has been the diverting of our rendering plants to deal with infected carcasses.

This has meant the suspension of the Over Thirty Month Scheme, which has forced cattle farmers to keep their unwanted elderly cull stock for the past three months.

There is now strong pressure building up for the OTMS to be restarted as soon as possible, so that the current backlog is cleared before the traditional autumn flush.

Action is needed now, before the stress reaches breaking point, and MAFF is being asked to switch as many cattle abattoirs as possible back into OTMS service. Many cynical observers think that little will happen before the general election, but then countryside matters have hardly been prioritised in the respective parties' political manifestos.

Like most other EU instigated projects, the Sheep Annual Premium Scheme (SAPS) has been incredibly complicated to administer, with calculations based upon estimated and real market prices; and payments to farmers staggered in innumerable stages.

The revamped SAPS will give sheep farmers a flat rate of approximately £12.90 per ewe, with a further £4.30 supplement for Less Favoured Areas. Each European country will be given a national quota and the revised UK ceiling will be around 90,000 units, less than at present, which is only a drop of around 0.5pc.

The simplification of the scheme will be welcome, although this won't negate the adverse political interference in the industry.

- MAFF is accused of fiddling FMD slaughter figures to suit Labour's election ambitions.

John Henderson, past president of Yorkshire's CLA, noted that a neighbouring farm taken out in the cull lost 215 cattle and 1,500 sheep; but the MAFF website failed to acknowledge the slaughter on 18 contiguous farms which lifted numbers to around 700 cattle and 5,000 sheep.

- A survey has indicated that 8pc of machinery dealers will be out of business within 12 months as a result of FMD.

- Farmers in Wales are pressing the Government to prioritise the labelling issue. It is morally wrong to label foreign meat as British and consumers have the right to know what they are buying.

- MAFF has revealed that its unused carcass disposal site in West Devon cost £7.5m to build and will cost a further £500,000 to reinstate.

- The RSPCA believes that the present system of marketing livestock is unacceptable, which is difficult to marry with the phone call I received from our local RSPCA inspector wanting to be involved in the new collection centre operation!

Bank holidays continue to disrupt marketing, but we are selling significant numbers of stock through the service. Cattle trade has been flat, forced down by large numbers still coming forward out of the infected areas.

At the end of last week, at least one large abattoir had dropped its 'R' grade price to 160p but earlier this week had been persuaded to revise it to around 163p/kilo. 'R' grade generally runs from 162-170p/kilo with a retail premium above that. Don't undersell - have a word with us.

Lamb prices really tumbled in the last two weeks, down to £2/kilo, but the start of the current week has seen fewer supplies about and trade lifting slightly. At the time of going to press, we are looking at 220p/kilo for lambs.

Pig prices have been pretty steady again, with baconers running at 95-102p and the best porkers up to 112p/kilo.

Help us to help you and ring our help lines, at Malton on (01653) 697820/692151 and York on (01904) 489731.

Updated: 09:30 Thursday, May 31, 2001