TDs want marts to reopen immediately

Farmers at Kenmare Mart adhering to strict social distancing rules when marts were allowed to trade during the earlier lockdown.
Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

TWO Kerry TDs have called for marts to be allowed to reopen and trade immediately.

Deputy Pa Daly said their closure as part of Level 5 lockdown measures is proving a disaster for the farming community.

“Mart sales are down 50 per cent compared this time last year and the livelihood of farmers is threatened further by this closure.

“While Minister McConalogue states that marts can remain open via online sales, this is not a realistic option for many,” he said.

Deputy Daly said rural broadband is non-existent in Kerry and the vast majority of farmers are struggling to participate effectively in online marts, where they even exist.

“Compounding this, the online mart sales system ran into technical difficulties and was offline while some marts were running.

Deputy Pa Daly: Sales at marts are down 50 per cent

“Many are hesitant to bid for an animal they are unable to see or inspect in person; post-sales inspections at the point of picking up the animal are considered unworkable,” the Kerry Sinn Fein TD said.

He said as well as being essential to trade, marts are key to the fabric of rural Ireland and provide the only meeting point many have in their working week.

“I have asked Minister McConalogue to review the situation as a matter of urgency. The marts themselves can designate staff to ensure social distancing is maintained and the Department of Agriculture can also have its own inspectors ensure marts are compliant.” Deputy Day added.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae, meanwhile, called on the Government, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture to take immediate action to lift the embargo on the marts and allow farmers and dealers to buy and sell cattle.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Marts are an essential service

He said this follows the pandemonium on Saturday when the online system broke down in several marts and hundreds of cattle had to be brought back without being sold.

“This is the time of year that farmers sell their cattle to pay their bills to contractors, feed suppliers, vets and others. Many other farmers’ herds have been locked down all year because of a broken down TB eradication scheme,” he said.

Deputy Healy-Rae said there is no understanding by the department of the damage deer and badgers are doing by spreading the disease.

“These farmers are free to sell now and can’t. If customers all over the country can go into shops and supermarkets to buy meat, surely the farmers should be allowed to utilise the marts to sell their cattle to replenish supplies,” the Kerry Independent TD stated.

He said marts should also be deemed an essential service.

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