The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) has again called on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue to open the marts in effort to address diminishing mart sales and the ‘inevitable’ mart closures as a consequence of this trend.
The ICSA beef chairman, Edmund Graham, wants to see a resumption of live bidding with social distancing safeguards implemented.
“The reality is that marts are an essential business and are an integral part of the food supply chain. Meat factories continue to operate as do supermarkets. But the supply of beef to the supermarket shelf begins with farmers and they need a fully functioning livestock mart system.
“We have seen large scale Covid outbreaks in meat factories and none in marts, yet marts are being punished. Apart from the disastrous collapse in an online platform a couple of weeks ago, there are ongoing problems with broadband every week.
“In addition, the current level 5 restrictions have impacted the sale of pedigree bulls and while some bulls have been sold, many have been withdrawn before sale or due to lack of bidding. This reflects the reality that looking at a twenty second video is not good enough for a key decision about a breeding animal that will impact herd profitability for years to come.
“It might be put up with if we had a guarantee that the current level 5 restrictions are only for six weeks. But soundings from NPHET are very pessimistic and ICSA wants Minister McConalogue to face up to the fact that if he does not deal with this issue now, it will be an ongoing disaster for most of 2021.
“Mart sales are down in numbers in recent weeks and if we continue this way, mart closures will be the inevitable consequence. This is not good for competition in the livestock trade. We have seen crystal clear examples of this with the cow trade in particular in 2020 where the marts provided significant gains for many farmers over selling direct to factories.”
“The situation has become untenable and Minister McConalogue must move to align marts with other essential food production operations so that primary producers can maintain their businesses,” Mr Graham concluded.