Coronavirus: Melton Livestock Market restricts activities and food festivals now in doubt

No activity other than Tuesday livestock sales and Friday farmers markets will be allowed at Melton Livestock Market from tomorrow (Wednesday) as the operators bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Hugh Brown, CEO of Melton Market EMN-200317-145415001
Hugh Brown, CEO of Melton Market EMN-200317-145415001

Today’s announcement means the Tavern pub will close for an indefinite period, car boot, Sunday market and fur and feather sales will be suspended and all units and trade stalls will cease operating for now.

Activities at the ancient market will be confined to the sale of cattle, sheep and pigs on Tuesdays and the farmers’ food market on Fridays.

The news means the annual Artisan Cheese Fair, due to be held on the weekend of May 2 and 3, is now seriously under threat with the prospect of other later food events at the market also potentialy being cancelled.

Matthew O'Callaghan, organiser of several food events in Melton which are now under threat due to the coronavirus outbreak EMN-200317-145426001

Hugh Brown, CEO of Melton Mowbray Market, told the Melton Times: “We’ve decided to restrict the market to just the process of buying and selling cattle, pigs and sheep and the farmers markets to keep the food supply going and to protect our staff from this outbreak.

“We haven’t been told to close the other parts of the market but the government is advising against going to large gatherings and the message is pretty clear.

“It is a big blow to us and to the town of Melton to lose parts of the market for however long it takes.

“Of course, it also brings into question whether weddings can still take place at the market as well as the food events we have coming up.”

Livestock at Melton market this week EMN-200317-145449001

Mr Brown said people affected by the restrictions have been supportive because of the need to take action to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

He said that government guidelines were being followed on site in terms of containing the virus with cleaning of communal areas and extensive hand washing facilities.

Ironically, today was a busy day at the market with thousands of animals traded in the sheds and auction area.

Mr Brown added: “We had over 4,500 sheep today and 650 cattle.

“We’ve never been busier but we realise there is a challenge ahead.

“This is a fast-moving issue and we don’t know when things will be back to normal but we are hoping we can bring back all the things which make the market great as soon as possible.”

Artisan Cheese Fair organiser, Matthew O’Callaghan, who also organises PieFest, ChocFest and the Melton Food Festival at the cattle market, said it was unlikely any of them would now go ahead with uncertainty over long the coronavirus pandemic will continue for.

He told the Melton Times: “Given the current climate and the fact that the livestock market has announced its closure till further notice for all but animal sales and the farmers market, I can’t see how these can possibly go ahead even for the rest of the year.

“There is no insurance that covers this so it means a potential loss of several tens of thousands of pounds.

“This obviously puts a question mark over the long term future of Melton’s Food Festivals.”