The 7-day lockdown of four local government areas in the Northern Rivers has forced the cancellation of three popular farmers’ markets in the Byron Shire and two others in neighbouring LGAs, along with sales at the region’s largest cattle selling complex.

Key points:

  • Five farmers’ markets were cancelled this week following police advice
  • COVID-19 concern forces the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange to shut down
  • An abattoir ramps up its traceability efforts with multiple QR codes

A local abattoir has also moved quickly to beef-up traceability with individual QR codes for each department.

The farmers markets in Lismore on Thursday afternoon and Ballina in Sunday have been cancelled, but the Saturday market in Lismore will go ahead.

Farmers markets in Newrybar and Nimbin both went ahead on Wednesday afternoon.

Despite farmers’ markets being declared an “essential service” by the federal government, this week the Byron, Bangalow, and Mullumbimby farmers’ markets were cancelled following advice from local police.

The Byron and Bangalow manager Tom Carey said it was not an easy decision for the committee but it came down to community safety.

“Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe said to us this morning that we need to have 100 per cent compliance to proceed with the market safely,” he said. 

“We have cancelled markets before because of severe weather events, and the feeling was that at the end of the day this has a far greater impact on the community than putting a farmers’ market on when there’s an east coast low on.”

Tom Carey wearing a hat and a mask.

Tom Carey says the committee made the decision to cancel its markets on advice from local police.(



Around 1,500 people attend the market in Byron each week to buy fresh produce from 70 stallholders.

“A lot of farmers feel like it’s the right thing to do even though it’s going to be hitting their hip pockets, us included,” Mr Carey said.

Sue Mangan from the North Byron Farmers’ Market Committee, which covers New Brighton and Mullumbimby markets, said the decision to cancel Mullumbimby on Friday was devastating. 

“For years we’ve been working towards local food sovereignty and it’s just been pulled from under our feet by people who won’t comply,” she said.

She said the bottom line was that a fringe of customers refused to follow the rules and they had no alternative but to cancel.

“Stallholders on Tuesday, not just on Friday, are continually having altercations with people who are saying ‘that mask is doing you more harm than good, take your mask off’, and it’s become really unpleasant,” she said.

Sue Mangan and three other people wearing masks.

Sue Mangan (front) from the North Byron Farmers’ Market Committee is concerned about community denialism.(

Supplied: Barefoot Law


Stallholders are now working on alternatives for their produce, with some of the larger farmers organising box deliveries.

“If this goes on it’s going to actually mean some of the smaller farmers will be going to the wall,” she said.

Casino cattle market cancelled

The lockdown has also shut down another essential service in the region with the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange (NRLX) cancelling two sales, and an estimated 3,000 head of cattle, at its complex outside Casino at the request of agents.

NRLX operations manager Brad Willis said the decision was made for the wellbeing and safety of its stakeholders and staff.

“At this stage, sales should recommence Wednesday 18 August,” he said.

“We will be following health advice.”

Meatworks beefs-up traceability

News of the COVID-19 positive case forced The Casino Food Co-op — which operates a beef processing plant and tannery in Casino, and a pork processing plant at Booyong, north of Lismore — to implement individual QR codes for each department. 

A worker at The Casino Food Co-op uses his phone to scan a QR code.

The Casino Food Co-op has now implemented QR codes for each department at its plants in Casino and Booyong.(

Supplied: Sagar Pahari


The co-op’s CEO Simon Stahl said the extra measure would minimise the impact on its operations if the virus was detected on site.

“We’ve had a QR code for some time now, but now we’ve broken the QR code down into different departments across our business,” he said.

“We’re getting some feedback out of Sydney in the processing sector, not necessarily abattoirs, that once they’ve identified that people are working in certain areas then it’s a lower risk.

“If you can demonstrate that you’ve lowered the risk enough, the authorities will work with you and allow you to keep processing. That’s our understanding.”

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Farmers hit by lockdown with cancellation of six Northern Rivers produce, livestock markets
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