By Debbie James

The auctioneer running Whitland livestock market says the site risks closure if farmers and dealers don’t comply with the Covid-19 safety measures following a visit from local authority officials.

JJ Morris Auctioneers said trading standards officials from Carmarthenshire County Council had reminded the company “in no uncertain terms’’ of its enforcement powers.

“This included the very real threat of closure if the measurements in place at the mart are not complied with,’’ the company posted on Facebook.

The concern stems from a minority of farmers and dealers flouting rules, including those relating to social distancing and the wearing of face coverings.

In response to this, the county council said that it would continue to make proactive visits to businesses across Carmarthenshire to offer advice and support and, if necessary, it was prepared to take “stronger action’’.

“Marts are subject to the same Covid-19 regulations as other businesses – operators must ensure that they are providing a safe environment, and farmers and visitors must also ensure they behave responsibly and within the law,’’ said a council spokesperson.

In Wales, trading standards departments have the powers to close marts if Covid regulations are not adhered to.

In common with all markets currently operating, there are measures in place around the sale rings at Whitland to prevent contact, including markers indicating where people should stand.

Everyone, except those with a medical exemption, must wear face coverings when they are in the mart building.

The mart is now operating a strict drop and go policy for store cattle, calves, sheep and pigs but with dairy cattle, vendors can remain until animals are sold, as long as they keep to specified areas.

JJ Morris said no other visitors were allowed on the mart premises.

“To ensure the continuation of the marts, Whitland mart must remain a business only-premises and is not open to the public until further notice,’’ the company added.

In Wales, the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA) is advising marts that, where possible, they should revert to the drop and go policy for fatstock that was in place during the first lockdown in March.