The Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment, Leo Varadkar, has been asked if grant aid will be provided to livestock marts to update equipment and assist with online costs.
Independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice, raised the matter earlier this week. He said the start-up grant earlier this year was welcome, but businesses with a turnover of more than €5 million were ineligible.
“I realise that when the Tánaiste took over the portfolio, he increased it to €25 million. If marts sold 100 cattle a week, they would go over the €5 million mark.”
“When they reopened, some of them were not aware that it had increased to €25 million and that they could apply for funding after they reopened. Some of these marts have put in a fair amount of online infrastructure. Will the Minister re-examine this?”
In response, Varadkar thanked the deputy for his recent submission on the matter. He highlighted some “clear” challenges that have emerged relating to the imposition of level 5 Covid–19 restrictions. This included the prohibition on buyers from accessing sales rings at livestock marts.
“The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy McConalogue, and his department continue to work closely with stakeholders to protect agri-food supply chains, despite the stricter controls in place.”
“Nevertheless, the core responsibility of Government is to protect lives and public health while also supporting the broader requirements of the economy and society.”
“Regretfully, we are in level 5 Covid-19 restrictions and it is not possible to make exemptions for any section of the economy affected by them.”
He said Minister McConalogue, and the Taoiseach reiterated this position during Question Time last week.
“Regarding the operation of online marts, I understand that Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine officials have been in contact with system providers and have been assured all necessary steps are being taken to avoid a repeat of the recent broadband connectivity issues experienced. They are monitoring the situation closely to ensure the smooth operation of future sales.”
“I understand the value of adequate broadband throughout the country. It is vital to the future of work and flexible and remote working. Work on the national broadband plan continues as quickly as possible.”
“The deputy raised the issue of broadband with me last week and a specific issue regarding stand-offs in relation to poles. I mentioned this to the Minister, Deputy Ryan, but the Deputy may wish to raise it with him directly.”
“There is no specific programme available to grant aid livestock marts to update equipment. I am happy to discuss any proposal the deputy may have.”
“I understand that marts have availed of the restart grant plus scheme, for which, the turnover cap was €25 million, increased from €5 million in the previous scheme, as he acknowledged.”
Fitzmaurice concluded by asking the Tánaiste to re-examine “providing an incentive or some type of funding that they [marts] may be able to access through the Department”.