3 support measures sought to ensure marts ‘can continue after Covid-19’

Three measures are being sought from the Government by the Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS) to help support livestock marts during the Covid-19 clampdown – and in the aftermath.

The organisation says current limited “stop-gap” services are loss-making for marts and the effect of Covid-19 will require time for marts to recover from financially.

The chairperson of the ICOS National Marts Committee, Liam Williams, has written to Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys seeking measures to be implemented, specific to the marts sector, in addition to other Government supports for the general business community.

Williams said that Government support for businesses is welcome, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises, at a time of soaring unemployment figures due to the impact of Covid-19.

‘Loss-making’ services

The chairperson noted the derogation provided to marts for a limited range of services to facilitate livestock transactions to farmers, but warned:

These stop-gap services are all loss-making to any livestock mart and are simply a service provision to the wider rural community rather than representing any long term business strategy.

To exacerbate the situation, he highlighted that the disruptions occurred within marts’ usual peak trading and income generation period, adding: “It will take a significant period of time to replace the lost income and to mitigate the balance sheet damage for many of these cooperatives.”

Williams underlined the value of cooperative marts in “stimulating open and transparent competition in the trade of livestock”, adding that they are “very low-margin businesses”.

Measures

“The major costs for all marts are labour, rates and insurance – which is inordinate,” he said.

Consequently, ICOS is calling on the minister for the following three measures, which it says are needed to “re-energise this sector and to ensure that as many marts as possible can continue in business after the Covid-19 pandemic has passed”:
  1. Local authority rates amnesty for 12 months to be implemented immediately;
  2. National Government Insurance underwriting of a proportion of mart business;
  3. Grant aid provision for investment in IT and online trading developments in marts.

The chairperson added: “ICOS is all too aware of the demands on national exchequer funds at this time but marts form an integral part of rural life and living.”

Williams asked for a remote meeting with Minister Humphreys and her officials to discuss his organisation’s proposals in more detail..

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