Calls for funding ‘to get marts back on track’ after Covid-19

The Government has been called on to provide support and funding for marts to help them “get back on track” after the Covid-19 pandemic eases.

Speaking on the latest episode of FarmLand, Eimear Mc Guinness, the chairperson of Mart Managers of Ireland (MMI) and manager of Donegal Livestock Mart, said that there was a “very big danger” of some marts not being able to reopen at all after the current restrictions are lifted.

“We are actually closed at our busiest time of the year. If you take even three or four sales, that’s a massive blow to commissions coming into the mart, but we’re probably talking a lot longer than that,” Mc Guinness said.

We are going to need some sort of funding or some sort of help from the Government to get us back on track after this. But then, there are a lot of other businesses and other sectors the same way.

Mc Guinness also outlined how the mart sector is likely to look when the restrictions are lifted, saying it will be “probably very busy”.

“From speaking to farmers these last two or three days, they’re all very weary of taking cattle out into this environment that they don’t understand and they don’t know,” she stressed.

“We were meant to have a sale last Friday [March 27] that didn’t go ahead. We had lot of cattle booked for that. Not all those farmers are going to show those cattle know, which means they’re going to hang on to them,” she explained.

There are also a lot of farmers out there that need to buy cattle, to build up their stocking numbers, and maybe they should try this system.

“But they’re just skeptical, they’re seeing the bad prices being quoted in the factory and they’re a bit nervous,” Mc Guinness highlighted.

‘Forward thinking’

The MMI chairperson called for Government action to ease cash-flow difficulties for farmers.

“We need the Government to do a little bit of forward thinking as regards farmers. Cash-flow for farmers is very tight at the minute. There’s not a lot of money about, and there’s a lot of expenses this time of year,” she commented.

I think the minister really needs to sit down with the farming organisations, or whoever, and make decisions. If they have to bring payments forward they should be doing that.

“What we already know is that we will be left with a lot of cattle for the factories, we are going to be left with sheep in the same situation probably, and the price is going to take another shot,” Mc Guinness warned.

Live export market

Mc Guinness went on the call for the Government to support live exporters in order to ease pressure in the market down the line.

“I would be saying, as regards the cattle coming into the mart, we need a live export market. That is something the Government could be concentrating on and doing something about right now,” she said.

[The Government] needs to assist live exporters in as many ways as possible to get as many cattle and sheep out of the country, and it can work on that now and it can invest in that.

“We had so many exporters in the country a few years ago. We have far less now, and there is a reason for that: They don’t really get any help,” Mc Guinness remarked.