Senator Pippa Hackett
The Green Party is calling for a lifting of restrictions on allotments and farmer’s markets to address local food security, and to secure the livelihoods of people and families with no other access to the market.
With Government loosening restrictions on construction sites and considering similar measures for other sectors, the Green Party contends that physical distancing and hand hygiene measures can be easily implemented in allotments and farmer’s markets, and that these could be assessed on a case by case basis by individual local authorities.
Green Party Spokesperson on Agriculture and Food, Offaly Senator Pippa Hackett, said: "We first wrote to the Minister for Health on April 2, and we were referred to three other Departments with our query on this issue. There seems to be conflicting views on the status of farmers’ markets and allotments. 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. For so many reasons, food security, mental health, local economy, we think that both Allotments and Farmers’ Markets should be classified as essential services, and that local authorities are best placed to make a call on it if they are safe to open.
“We need a clear decision on this, and we are calling on Minister Murphy to make this decision. The season is moving on, and will be lost for many crops is a decision is not made now. We cannot underestimate the importance of local food resilience amid the upheaval caused by this pandemic, in fact it could be vital."
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 growing of local food?"