A determined effort to restore the fortunes of Lurgan Fatstock Centre is under way.
And Ulster Farmers’ Mart Co Ltd, who have run the centre since its opening in 1954, are confident that the demands of the local butchers – “the most quality conscious in the country” – can be met by producers in the area.
Said Mr Thomas Bryans, assistant general manager and auctioneer: “It seems wrong that butchers should go out of town for their supplies when in fact they could have them on their doorstep.
“Local producers too must be encouraged to offer their animals in Lurgan and it is this encouragement which we propose to give.”
Mr Bryans added: “There is no reason at all why Lurgan should not operate as successfully as our other centres at Enniskillen, Robsons (Belfast), Armagh and Limavady.”
But what went wrong at Lurgan, particularly over the past three or four years when the number of animals on offer had declined rapidly?
Mr Bryans felt that private certifications and “generally bad time-keeping” were serious factors in the loss of enthusiasm by both buyers and sellers.
Private certifications have been taking up more and more time with the result that buyers were discouraged from coming early and simply went elsewhere.
Time-keeping, too, Mr Bryans agreed, had got “a bit out of hand” with uncertainties in starting times tending to drive people away.
And with the drift away by butchers and shippers, producers were naturally less inclined to give support and cattle were not always entered in the best condition.
The vicious circle had in fact been hard at work.
Now a 10am deadline has been set for certifications with the sale starting promptly at 10.30am each Wednesday.
There has been a canvass of producers to supply the right animals while the butchers have pledged support “if the stock is there”.
Mr J Gillespie, butchery manager of Victor Grattan Ltd, and Mr C T Dowey spoke for their fellow butchers in Lurgan when they said: “Why shouldn’t we support the Lurgan centre if the animals which we require are on offer. There is no point in us going out of the town if we can fill our orders locally.