The Green Party have called on the government to lift COVID-19 restrictions in allotments and farmers’ markets.
They believe this would address local food security and secure the livelihood of people with no other access to markets.
Restrictions have been loosened in the construction industry under strict social distancing measures and the Green party believe similar protocol could apply to allotments and farmers’ markets.
Green Party Spokesperson on Agriculture and Food, Senator Pippa Hackett, stated that they have written to the Minister for Health to address this issue, who then referred the query to three other departments. This is evidence of potential conflicting views between departments, according to Hackett.
“We are of the view that the decision should lie with individual local authorities and decided on a site by site, case by case basis, and based on the submission of a social distancing and hand hygiene plan.”
“Allotments are in the open air and are laid out in a manner amenable to social distancing. A trip to the allotment or farmers’ market surely presents a much lower risk of infection compared to a trip to the supermarket, while also providing perhaps a healthier food source, that may be just as essential to a given individual or family,” she argued.
She has requested that a definite decision be made on this issue by Eoghan Murphy, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. A quick decision is also vital before the season moves on and crops are lost.
Green Party spokesperson on Community and Rural Development, Malcolm Noonan TD, added: “Clearly, public health must be the paramount consideration in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but allotments and farmers’ market are self-evidently sites of food production and many people rely on them as a significant source of food.”
“If the growing and selling of food is not deemed an essential service, then I don’t know what is. Takeaways and off-licences are open, so why can’t we facilitate the growth of local food?” he concluded.
On Monday, 20th of April, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government responded by saying these allotments in question do not fall under the food production exemption and there is no way to enforce social distancing once people are on site.
They stated that a future review of any restrictions will, of course, be informed by public health advice.