The Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, has been asked if consideration is being given to allow socially distant in-person sales at livestock marts.
Catherine Connolly, Independent TD for Galway West, raised the parliamentary question recently.
In response, Minister Charlie McConalogue said: “Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, my Department has worked intensively, in cooperation with marts representative organisations, to ensure that marts may remain in operation.”
“My Department has adapted the conditions under which marts must operate since April, to reflect the various measures introduced by the Government to stop the spread of this disease.”
“I would like to commend the representative organisations for this good and necessary cooperation. I would like to commend also the marts themselves, and farmers around the country, for the resilience they have shown in the face of Covid-19, and the speed with which they have adapted to the new circumstances.”
Work together to suppress the virus
On October 19th, the Taoiseach announced that the whole country would move to Level 5 of the Framework for Living with Covid-19 for 6 weeks, starting midnight on Wednesday, 21st.
McConalogue said this decision was made on foot of strong evidence presented to the Government of a potentially grave situation arising in the weeks ahead.
“The Taoiseach has called on us all to work together to suppress the virus, and to reopen as much of our society and economy as possible when it is safe to do so.”
“The core responsibility of this Government is to protect lives and to protect public health, while also protecting livelihoods and supporting the wider economy and society. Protecting the agri-food sector and people in rural communities is at the centre of my Department’s direction.”
Online-only mart sales
It was confirmed that all marts may conduct sales using online platforms only. “My Department will continue to monitor the situation, and to adopt measures applied to marts in line with public health guidelines.”
“Buyers are already permitted to view animals in marts prior to sale, socially distanced and by appointment. There is no consideration being given at present to allowing buyers to congregate and attend in the sales ring while the country remains at Level 5.”
“Although marts are operating sales online, buyers may view livestock for sale at the mart premises – individual appointment times are allocated to individual buyers to view or collect livestock.”
“Marts have been using online mart sales systems since April. There has been a rapid take up of the new systems by marts over recent months.”
Currently, he added, the vast majority of marts have online systems in place and are operating through online platforms. Some remaining marts are in the process of installing online systems, he added.
‘Good clearance rates and robust prices’
“Thousands of cattle and sheep have been bought and sold successfully using the various online platforms. As with any new technology, there have been some glitches, and these have been dealt with as they arise.”
“This is undoubtedly a challenging time. My Department is closely monitoring the situation, and there are seeing some positive aspects of online sales at marts.”
“Online sales are reaching a much higher number of farmers, dealers, and agents than sales on marts premises did, even prior to the start of Covid-19 restrictions.”
“The number of people logging into online mart sales on a daily basis are many multiples of those that typically attend a mart sale in person. The majority of marts are reporting good clearance rates and robust prices,” he concluded.