Financial support is needed immediately to help marts re-open their doors in phase two, according to the Mart Managers of Ireland (MMI).
The organisation, which represents some 24 marts, is requesting a meeting with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) to highlight the need for “urgent financial supports”.
Eimear McGuinness, chairperson of the group, has written a letter to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to highlight concerns expressed by mart managers.
Marts ‘loss-making’ 6/7-months per year
“Like so many businesses throughout the country, livestock marts will have been closed for two months and possibly more during Covid-19.”
“Marts differ from most businesses, in that our turnover mirrors very closely the farming cycle i.e., we have spring and autumn times in the year when farmers do most of their purchases and selling.”
“For the remainder of the year (approximately 6-7 months) marts are loss-making. Covid-19 has interrupted two of our busy spring months.”
“Your Department can update you with the status of all marts that trade under the agreed SOP during Covid-19.”
This, the letter added, will show you that the smaller marts conducted a handful of sales in the two-month period-these, marts simply found the SOP unworkable.
“The larger marts have moved to online selling platforms which allows them to continue to trade. The online options do require considerable financial investment and not all marts can afford this.”
“Whether a mart is large or small in size, there is one common denominator; buyers and sellers both miss the auction ring.”
“The loss that marts have been to the farming community and the vital role they play in facilitating a safe haven for farmers to trade their livestock while securing the maximum price achievable is huge.”
“For the most part, farmers have had to work without the livestock auction over the past two months. The live-trade within marts, something we can look back and say was taken for granted because of its absence during Covid19, is missed.”
Confidence amongst farmers ‘suffered’
“Confidence amongst farmers has certainly suffered with the numbers of livestock presenting to marts dramatically reduced during Covid-19.”
“The Department of Agriculture have facilitated us with figures for the last two weeks of April which show the numbers of cattle which were moved through marts.”
Figures for these two weeks alone, show that sales through marts for cattle are down 60% when compared to the same two weeks last year, the letter added.
“This is not taking into account sheep numbers which are traded through the mart system and the busier weeks which marts where not operating before this and the weeks thereafter.”
These potential commissions can never be recouped and these losses will be reflected in accounts towards the year-end, the chairperson outlined.
Possible mart closures
The letter added that the effect of marts closing under Covid-19 has compounded the difficulties the industry has experienced over the past number of years; decline in suckler farmers throughout the country, insurance premiums hikes, commercial rates upward revaluations.
“Regarding marts who paid for insurance cover for business interruption, these marts have had no clear or concise statement from the insurance companies, with regards to whether they will pay or won’t pay on business interruption for the time when marts have not been able to perform and maximise their full cash flows, thus leaving them in a very vulnerable position.”
“Covid-19 may potentially close some marts. With all this in mind over the past month or two, mart managers are now faced with the prospect of returning to sale yards with a lot fewer customers to purchase stock.”
“We will also be asked to keep sale numbers smaller and hold extra sales in order to keep numbers of people attending to a minimum creating more additional costs.”
“There are 82 marts throughout the country, all of which play a vital role to the farmers, communities and towns in which they are situated. We cannot afford to lose any mart.” the letter added.