Department’s sole reliance on online system ‘unsustainable’ – TD

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s sole reliance on an online system is “unsustainable”, according to TD and member of the Rural Independent Group Richard O’Donoghue.

Speaking from his Co. Limerick constituency yesterday (Wednesday, October 28), deputy O’Donoghue said:

“This weekend’s havoc [which left] farmers and their animals distressed after lengthy waits and delays at marts is inexcusable. Farmers with livestock endured these long wait periods, unaware if their livestock would even be sold.

Coupled with this mess, we know that the grave Covid-19 restrictions have already curtailed mart activity to such extents that heavily reduced prices are negatively impacting farmers’ already low incomes, especially in rural Ireland.

“As a group, we reiterate that the department’s sole reliance on an online system is unsustainable,” he claimed.

“Further exacerbating the issue, reliable broadband is inaccessible to countless citizens in rural areas; some marts fail to possess the infrastructure to facilitate online sales; and, farmers’ older age profile often means lower levels of technological savviness,” he added.

“It is completely absurd to expect sellers and buyers to remain mute about such impediments.

Farmers’ livelihoods are dependent on such livestock sales, and buyers necessitate such purchases to ensure the continuance of their business.

“This two-way transactional business has been greatly affected.

“Consequently, farmers are losing faith in the entire system and marts cannot recoup lost revenue during one of the year’s busiest periods for both parties.

“Therefore, agriculture must and should be fully recognised as an essential business, crucial to our food chain supply line,” explained deputy O’Donoghue.

We are calling on the Minister for Agriculture to immediately intervene, show leadership and support farmers by allowing marts to re-open for business, all the while adhering to all the necessary social distancing and public health guidelines.

“The severe restrictions have already crippled marts, illustrating the government’s complete disregard for the sector.

“The minister must intervene soon – otherwise, he will be responsible for destabilising the entire sector,” deputy O’Donoghue concluded.