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Farmers Market cancellation protest

posted 4 Nov 2008, 03:37 by myEdinburgh Admin   [ updated 4 Nov 2008, 03:39 ]

STALLHOLDERS held a makeshift farmers' market from the back of their vans after the Capital's popular weekly event was cancelled at the 11th hour.

Thousands of customers turned up to Castle Terrace for the market on Saturday, despite it being called off due to an error in paperwork.

Around 13 producers went ahead and sold their products on Saturday anyway, but they hit out at the blunder by organisers Essential Edinburgh.

They said customers and traders had been treated "disgracefully" and the error could have cost them tens of thousands in lost takings. As reported in Saturday's News, Essential Edinburgh called off the market due to an "administrative error" on Friday afternoon. They say they have launched a full inquiry into the problem.

The event is an important source of income for around 40 farmers and producers, who travel from all over Scotland.

It regularly attracts crowds of up to 10,000 and is now in its ninth year.

Peter Maclaren, a pig farmer from East Lothian, was selling meat from his van on Saturday.

He said: "They've treated us and the customers appallingly. I'm angry about the way it was done.

"A lot of people have thousands of pounds worth of produce in the back of their vans. I've got 80 kilos of sausages that will go out of date on Wednesday.

"Somebody should have been down here to say sorry and explain what had gone wrong. But there's nobody here at all to tell the customers why there's no market. It's a complete shambles."

Nick Paul, of the city-based Crisp Hut, also turned up on Saturday. He said: "This is a complete disgrace. People depend on this for their livelihood. It's not a hobby. The value of the produce if you count it up is £250,000 to £300,000. What do you do with all of that if you can't sell it?

"Forty businesses look at this as a way to make a living. The organisers have treated us with contempt."

Stallholders also expressed fears that the cancellation might affect takings at future markets.

Rosslyn MacPhail, 66, from Stockbridge, was one of the customers who turned up at 8.30am. She said she goes every week to buy fruit, vegetables and meat.

She said: "I was extremely annoyed after making the effort to get there early. The stallholders were obviously very upset. They spend days packing it all up.

"It's a great treasure of Edinburgh. It's a huge success. A lot of people arrived who had come especially early with bags to buy their week's groceries. I hope there's some pressure to get it all sorted out next week."

It is thought that Essential Edinburgh, which took over from Edinburgh City Centre Management in July, made an error in applying for a licence and insurance.

A spokesman said: "We have discovered some issues with the paperwork for the event. On that basis we have an obligation to cancel. We apologise for any inconvenience caused."

But council leader Jenny Dawe called on the company to compensate the traders. She said: "It is my view that they should consider assisting traders with the unforeseen costs they have incurred."

Source: Hazel Mollison, Evening News, Monday, 3rd November, 2008

Readers comments

STALLHOLDERS at Edinburgh's Farmers Market have been left outraged after today's event was cancelled at the 11th hour, with some estimating losses will be as much as £150,000.

The weekly market at Castle Terrace, which attracts up to 10,000 visitors every week, was called off just after 2pm yesterday.

Organisers Essential Edinburgh would say only that it was an "administrative error" and insisted they had launched a full inquiry into the problem.

But stallholders have said they are "disgusted" at the late call-off.

It is understood organisers discovered they did not have a licence to run the market and had not held one since taking over from previous organisers, Edinburgh City Centre Management, in July.

Around 40 producers from across the country were expected at the market and much of their produce is now likely to go to waste. For many of the small, speciality producers, the market is their main source of income, and there was outrage at the short-notice, which meant many producers had slaughtered animals "needlessly".

Caroline Hamilton, owner of West Lothian-based Mrs Hamilton's Organic Beef and Lamb, said: "We have been preparing all week for the market and we have orders from regular customers who will be turning up expecting us to be there.

"The market is our main source of income and this is a real problem for us, because we have had a difficult few months anyway.

"It is not good enough to be told that it is an 'administrative problem', as that is just a cop-out – this is affecting real people in a very serious way."

Takings at the market are estimated to be around £120,000 a week, but stallholders say they expect the cancellation to affect future markets.

While Essential Edinburgh insisted the market would be open for business next week, Dr John Fletcher, a partner with Fletcher's of Auchtermuchty venison producers, said the cancellation would have long-term effects for customers and stallholders.

"I am really disgusted at the way we have been treated by the bureaucrats who run the market," he said.

"We rely on the market for our income and quite apart from the fact they will have to compensate the staff who were due to work, we have killed an animal needlessly, which just infuriates me."

Councillor Alison Johnstone, leader of the city's Green group, said there had been no real reason given for the cancellation.

"This is an absolute outrage giving the traders such short notice," she said.

"Unless there's an absolute emergency this should not be allowed to happen."

Jenny Dawe, Edinburgh City Council leader, said she had instructed council officers to try and find places for the affected stallholders at alternate markets.

"It was Essential Edinburgh's responsibility to ensure it had a licence once it took over running the farmers' market," she said.

"It is my view that Essential Edinburgh should consider assisting traders with the unforeseen costs they have incurred."

Organisers Essential Edinburgh apologised for the cancellation, but stressed that the administration issues would be speedily resolved.

A spokesman said: "We have discovered some issues in the paperwork for the event. On that basis, we have an obligation to cancel.

"We apologise for any inconvenience caused and we will be talking with each trader to ensure they are comfortable with the way ahead."