An urgent resolution to the curtailment of the operation of marts is required, according to Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD.
He said the only aspect of food production activity that is currently operating under severe restriction is the only aspect in which farmers have any semblance of control – in marts.
“The restrictions have prevented activity at marts to such an extent that it is having an impact on the prices that farmers are receiving and the issue needs to be addressed urgently.”
Of course, he added, public health advice is paramount and must be respected; however, food production has rightly been deemed as essential work.
“To severely restrict the operation of marts exposes a lack of understanding of how the sector works. Marts are a vital component in the market chain.”
“Online solutions can only offer part of the solution – many buyers do not have access to adequate broadband. In fact, some marts themselves do not have the infrastructure to facilitate wholly online sales.”
“Farmers have been comparing the situation that they have found themselves in – which has seen the curtailment of a vital component of their market – with the situation in meat plants which have operated with little restrictions; despite being the source of multiple Covid-19 outbreaks.”
Intervention from Minister for Agriculture
“Throughout the pandemic, it has appeared that there have been no lengths to which the government will not go to ensure that factories could remain open.
“A solution needs to be found that will allow some buyers around mart rings.”
Everyone, he added, accepts that some restrictions will remain and that public health measures will need to be strictly implemented.
“But even within those parameters, there must be a solution to the currently unsustainable situation. If the marts are to be facilitated, then the Minister for Agriculture needs to intervene.”