ICMSA calls for allowance of 25 people to attend mart sales

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has called for allowances to be made for 25 people to physically attend mart sales.

Pat McCormack, the association’s president, argued that as long as the recommended social distancing and other regulations were fully observed, it “would be difficult to see how marts should be different to other essential services”.

“We’re just conscious that this is traditionally a very busy period for weanling producers when competition for cattle is critical, and we think that if their trade could be facilitated – subject, of course, to observance of all Covid guidelines – then that would be a step in the right direction,” McCormack argued.

The farmers concerned might only have one opportunity to make their margin on their stock so we’d be in favour of giving them that opportunity.

“It’s obviously going to be a decision for the relevant government departments, but ICMSA believes that we could have up to 25 persons physically at the mart and still be comfortably in a situation where no-one is within 2m or 3m of anyone else.

“We don’t think that would be too difficult, so could we not look at this?” the ICMSA president asked.

He noted: “I’m very reluctant to ever comment on areas where medical experts have already given an opinion, but I can’t see how 25 people scattered around a naturally ventilated mart are any more exposed than 25 people in a completely enclosed and indoor supermarket.

“There are farmers out there who just don’t have either the broadband or IT facilities and I think we should look at facilitating them to attend their local marts, if at all possible,” McCormack concluded.

IFA submission

Many farm organisations have been busy putting forward suggestions as to how to avoid a repeat of the chaos seen on Saturday, when IT issues resulted in several marts around the country having business delayed, while some had to cancel sales altogether and send animals away.

A submission on this issue has been sent to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

The IFA has also called for the facilitation of a “strictly limited” number of buyers around the ring, with full government guidelines for social distancing and the wearing of masks applied.