Latest coronavirus updates for farmers…as they happen [March]
The country is in the midst of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.
Here (below) are the latest farming-related updates and developments (up to the end of March 2020).
Tuesday, March 31
6:45pm: Calls mount for TB testing to be ‘put on hold’
Hugh Farrell, the animal health chairperson of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), is calling on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to push back (defer) TB testing – by up to three months.
He said: “Instead of the [previous] test lasting for 12 months, it could be pushed out to 15 months. A few months is not going to matter now, because cattle are still housed to a certain extent…and [TB] can be contained.”
4:04pm: Agri co-op sector open ‘for essential farm inputs only’
The Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS) said that co-op branches throughout Ireland are now only permitted to sell “essential farm inputs”.
“This [guidance] follows clarifications sought from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.”
3:19pm: CVRT tests for commercial vehicles suspended
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport – Shane Ross – and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) confirmed that Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness Testing (CVRT) facilities have been suspended.
Related services and facilities, such as the National Car Testing (NCT) service and the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) are also being ground to a halt.
2:39pm: ‘Emergency appeal’ to support food distribution
FoodCloud, which provides food to community groups in Ireland and the UK, said that demand for its services has increased as a result of Covid-19, but that its resources are “under pressure”.
This is apparently because 40% of its community partners have closed, due to reduced availability of volunteers.
12:58pm: Publication of EU Farm to Fork strategy postponed
Publication of the EU ‘Farm to Fork’ (sustainable food) strategy was postponed. It is now “tentatively scheduled” to be published by the European Commission at the end of April.
The delay is believed to be due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
12:39pm: TB testing suspended in Northern Ireland
The Minister of Agriculture in Northern Ireland – Edwin Poots – announced that all TB testing will cease across the jurisdiction with immediate effect.
12:05pm: Teagasc map reveals how isolated your home or farm is…
In an interesting and timely development, Teagasc revealed a map of the country that highlights the level of isolation in rural areas, particularly in the west.
11:39am: EU member states told to ‘exchange information’ on seasonal worker needs
The European Commission issued guidelines for EU member states to “ensure the continued movement of workers”, including seasonal agriculture workers.
This, it says, is necessary to avoid labour shortages, as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.
10:35am: Quinns of Baltinglass remains open, but with operational changes
Agri-supplies provider Quinns of Baltinglass said that it will remain open for business, but with significant operational changes in place.
Speaking on Monday, March 30, William Quinn explained: “All of our agri-store locations are operating with a ‘call and collect’ system. Our delivery options are still there as an option too.
However, given how hectic everything is at the moment, we would advise farmers to please give a minimum of four working days’ notice for all feed, seed, fertiliser and spray delivery orders. Collect where you can.
10:11am: Department suspends on-farm visits for 2 weeks
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed confirmed that routine Department of Agriculture on-farm visits will not take place over the coming days.
He explained: “For the next two weeks routine departmental on-farm visits will not take place, unless required on a risk basis. Essential services, such as disease control or reactor removal, will continue.”
9:30am: Beef trade: Steer and heifer quotes drop to 350c/kg
Amidst the Covid-19 crisis, beef factories moved to lower quotes that are available for prime cattle – down to approximately 350c/kg.
9:16am: ‘Responsibility with marts to produce Standard Operating Procedure’ – ALM
Welcoming the announcement that marts are to offer some limited services (with restrictions), Associated Livestock Marts (ALM) said that responsibility now lies with each mart to produce its Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
A spokesperson said: “The SOP – when agreed with the local veterinary office – will be the framework when delivering vital services to farmers.”
8:29am: Mart Managers of Ireland urges farmers to ‘contact their local mart today’
Welcoming a decision by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to enable marts to offer “a limited range of essential services”, the Mart Managers of Ireland (MMI) said that its members were “delighted to see the new measures”.
“We urge any farmer who needs to purchase or sell livestock to contact their local mart today.”
8:19am: ICOS: New measures welcome but marts ‘not open for auctions or public visitation’
The Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS) said that a decision to enable marts to offer “a limited range of essential services” will alleviate the current economic burden on farmers seeking to trade animals.
The organisation welcomed the development, saying that it will also ensure that calves can be bought and sold – during the current peak calving season.
7:38am: Details of mart’s new ‘limited services and protocols’ revealed
Following the earlier announcement that marts can reopen to provide “a very limited range of essential services”, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine provided details of what such services (and the associated protocols) might entail.
- For calves, a farmer could deliver calves to a mart, by appointment, so that orders for purchase can be matched and facilitated by the mart;
- For older livestock, a weighing service for lots of cattle/sheep could be offered – by appointment, with the mart facilitating a transaction between a buyer and a seller.
For considerably more detail, see this story.
7:38am: Calf Investment Scheme budget increased to €4 million
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine – Michael Creed – confirmed that approvals will issue “this week” to applicants under the new Calf Investment Scheme.
He also stated that he has increased the scheme’s budget from the original €1.5 million to €4 million, to “fully fund all eligible applications received”.
7:01am: Marts get green light for ‘limited range’ of essential services
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine announced that it will issue guidance to marts on “a very limited range of essential services” they could offer – in compliance with Covid-19 guidelines.
The Minister For Agriculture, Food and the Marine – Michael Creed – said: “My department is to issue guidance to marts on a very limited range of essential services that…do not require people to assemble.”
Monday, March 30
8:09pm: Tullamore Show cancelled, due to Covid-19
The 2020 Tullamore Show & FBD National Livestock Show has been cancelled, due to the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.
Rodney Cox – the show treasurer – confirmed the news to AgriLand on Monday, March 30. The show was due to be held on August 9.
4:47pm: Travelling to buy or sell livestock…under current restrictions
As part of ongoing updates, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine told AgriLand: “Currently, there is no prohibition on the movement of animals within the country [given] that farming is identified as an essential service.
Within this context, however, individuals undertaking any travel need to consider whether such a journey is actually essential within the context of the public health crisis that we are experiencing.
4:27pm: Covid-19 guidance for NI agri-food firms
The Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) published guidance for food manufacturers on how to keep employees safe.
Building on advice from Public Health England, and practical experience from local food companies, the document identified “practical ways” to implement social distancing and other measures.
4:06pm: BPS applications running ahead of last year, amidst coronavirus
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine confirmed that, as of Friday, March 27, almost 33,000 Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) applications had been lodged.
This compares to a figure of around 28,000 applications by March 27, 2019.
3:41pm: Vets offer support to HSE…to tackle Covid-19
Anecdotal reports indicate that veterinary practitioners around Ireland reached out to the Health Service Executive (HSE), offering assistance – equipment and staff – in the fight to tackle the spread of Covid-19.
3:24pm: Fruit and vegetable demand ‘booming’ in Europe
The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Janusz Wojciechowski, said that there is significantly increased demand for fruit and vegetables.
He noted: “Consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables in the EU has been booming in recent weeks. Spain, Italy and the Netherlands report 40% increases…and Germany up to 100%.”
2:35pm: Lakeland Dairies steps up safety protocols
Lakeland Dairies rolled out new physical and online measures to help protect farmers and customers.
For customers of Lakeland Agri stores in Longford town, Lough Egish and Monaghan town, new perspex screens were installed to enhance contact distancing between staff and customers. Other protocols were already in place.
2:08pm: Farmers aged over 70 ‘can continue to work’
A Government spokesperson said that older farmers aged over 70 can continue to work – but must be very careful about not coming into close contact with others.
In a briefing delivered by Elizabeth Canavan, assistant secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach, she said: “Generally speaking, we want everyone over 70 to stay at home and not leave. However, some common sense applies here.”
2:05pm: ‘Traditional market supports may not work’ – MII
Meat Industry Ireland (MII) warned that traditional market supports, including intervention and Aids to Private Storage (APS), may not work at present.
Cormac Healy, the senior director of MII, said: “Processors are under pressure to maintain throughput levels given the loss of the important food-service market channel.
“While traditional market supports may not work, other forms of support must be brought forward by the European Commission without delay.”
1:52pm: ‘Confine services’: VCI issues updated guidelines
The Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI) issued updated guidelines, in accordance with tighter restrictions brought in by the Government.
The VCI outlined that veterinary service providers should confine their services to “those supporting food production, in addition to emergency care, at this time”.
1:23pm: Poots urges NI farmers to complete Single Application now
The Minister for Agriculture in Northern Ireland – Edwin Poots – urged all farmers and agents to continue to submit their 2020 Single Applications as soon as possible.
He explained: “I am aware that the European Commission has offered EU member states the option to delay the Single Application deadline until June 15. Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK to make direct payments in October each year.
“Delaying the Single Application submission deadline beyond May 15 would inevitably delay these payments.”
12:23pm: ICOS calls for measures to ‘prevent drop-off in milk price’
The Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS) called on European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Janusz Wojciechowski to immediately activate market management tools to “signal a boost of support” for the dairy market.
In particular, an Aids to Private Storage (APS) facility was sought for butter, skimmed milk powder and cheese.
12:06pm: Commissioner ‘foresees’ Aids to Private Storage (APS) for market disruption
Speaking at a meeting of EU agriculture ministers (held the previous week), Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Janusz Wojciechowski outlined a range of measures that may be implemented “at a later stage”.
Aids to Private Storage (APS) is reportedly among a number of measures that will be considered by the European Commission, in the event of “serious market disruption” arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.
11:43am: Contractors and farmers move on ‘essential worker’ letters
Organisations representing farmers and agricultural contractors provided templates for their members, with regard to the carrying of letters (and identification) for employees – to confirm their status as ‘essential service’ workers.
11:12am: New initiative for isolated rural communities will ‘leave nobody behind’
Irish Rural Link and The Wheel – the association of community and voluntary organisations and charities – came together to coordinate a new ‘Covid-19 Community Outreach’ (CCO) initiative, which will be funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development.
Seamus Boland, chief executive of Irish Rural Link, said: “This will ensure that assistance is directed where it is most needed, so let’s connect and make sure nobody gets left behind.”
6:10am: JCB joins ‘call to action’ in UK over ventilator shortage
JCB says it received a direct appeal from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier in March to help plug a national ventilator shortage.
The company announced that it is now ready to re-start production at a factory which has been closed for nearly two weeks (as a result of the coronavirus crisis). But instead of making cabs for JCB construction equipment, the plant is being mobilised to make special steel housings for a brand new design of ventilator from Dyson.
Sunday, March 29
5:51pm: Milk Quality Ireland writes to milking machine technicians
Milk Quality Ireland wrote to registered milking machine technicians, following the release of new Government guidelines.
He added: Farmers, milking machine technicians and bulk tank engineers must ensure that the work required over the period to April 19 is necessary and urgent…and that strict protocols concerning physical distancing are adhered to.”
5:35pm: Planning applications can continue to be made ‘by post’
The Government agreed – at the request of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy – to make an order, which extends public participation periods in the planning system for a period of three weeks.
A spokesperson also noted: “Planning applications can continue to be made by post, and authorities can engage with applicants by electronic means.”
3:01pm: ‘Talk of once-a-day milking is unhelpful and impractical’ – IFA
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan said: “The reality is that our milk production system is seasonal and we will be at maximum output in May.
However, our dairy co-ops have invested in extra capacity to handle this. Talk of once-a-day milking is unhelpful and impractical.
“Obviously, the Covid-19 crisis poses additional risks, but with proper co-operation and contingency planning between processors, and engagement with suppliers, it should be possible to manage.
“What we really need is an EU scheme to help co-ops across Europe to store processed product, known as Aids to Private Storage [APS].”
2:32pm: ICSA shocked that ‘TB testing to go ahead next week’
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) said that it was “shocked at a notification it received yesterday [Saturday, March 28] from the Department of Agriculture” – apparently indicating that all scheduled TB testing will go ahead next week.
“We are calling on the department to call off all TB testing in the near future.”
1:37pm: Agricultural consultants update protocols, as major deadlines loom
Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) president Tom Canning said: “Our members are on target to submit all applications for the Basic Payment Scheme [BPS] and associated applications before May 15…and other deadlines such as the Nitrates derogation on April 24.
Our members continue to abide by HSE [Health Service Executive] recommendations in our role as farm advisors.
He added: “Over 130,000 BPS applications must be submitted by May 15. ACA members will be involved in the submission of 55,000 of those.”
11:05am: Farm machinery manufacturing ‘can continue for now’, but dealerships are subject to ‘restrictions’
Following the release of the Government’s updated ‘list of essential service providers – under new public health guidelines‘, the Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association (FTMTA) affirmed that “agricultural machinery manufacturing can continue”.
The organisation said that there has been “no change…in relation to the status of retail and distributor businesses in our sector – restricted arrangements continue [to be] in place”.
10:50am: ‘Essential farmers observe physical distance of at least 2m’ – Progressive Genetics
Progressive Genetics issued a statement informing farmers that AI and milk recording services will continue under the ‘essential services‘ category.
In a message to farmers, Progressive Genetics said: “The Government has designated our services as essential. And it is essential that you observe the HSE [Health Service Executive] and AI industry protocols – in particular physical distancing of at least 2m.”
Saturday, March 28
11:00pm: ‘Essential worker list welcome but peak challenges remain’ – DII
Dairy Industry Ireland (DII) welcomed the publication of the Government’s ‘essential services’ employee list – but warned that significant challenges for the industry and suppliers are fast-approaching – as peak milk processing is set to coincide with peak Covid-19 outbreak projections.
8:05pm: Farmers and agricultural workers advised to carry identification
Self-employed farmers or agricultural workers that have been deemed ‘essential workers’ under new Government guidelines have been advised to “carry one form of identification with them at all times”, as the state’s next phase of action to fight Covid-19 gets underway.
6:15pm: Government publishes list of ‘essential service providers’
Following the roll-out of tighter Covid-19 restrictions, the Government published a list of ‘essential service providers‘ – under new public health guidelines.
This is a list of service providers and activities that have been deemed ‘essential’ and, therefore, are permitted (by the state) to continue operating.
The list includes: “farmers; farm labourers; farm relief service workers; and others involved directly or indirectly in crop and animal production and related activities (including veterinary services)”.
4:02pm: Irish Rural Link urges all to heed new measures, especially ‘cocooning’
Irish Rural Link – the network representing rural communities – urged everyone to heed the new measures announced by the Taoiseach, especially cocooning for the elderly and others in the high-risk category.
The body also asked people to check on elderly and other vulnerable neighbours by phone – to ensure that they have adequate food, fuel and medicine.
2:10pm: Machinery dealerships not ‘essential outlets’, but can undertake emergency services
The Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association (FTMTA) informed its members that they are no longer considered an ‘essential business’ (in light of tighter country-wide Covid-19 restrictions), saying: “Our trade is no longer in the category of essential businesses that can continue relatively normal operations.”
The FTMTA noted that its members will (despite the tighter restrictions) be able to operate on an emergency call-out and delivery service basis. However, it stressed that members of the public and non-essential staff will not be permitted on work premises.
11:15am: Animal feed retailers included in ‘essential retail outlets’ list
A list released by Government officials deemed animal feed outlets and pet stores to be essential retailers, allowing them to stay open following the announcement of tighter Covid-19 restrictions.
This comes as many businesses, that were deemed to be “essential” earlier this week, were subsequently asked to only operate on an emergency call-out and delivery service basis.
Friday, March 27
11:00pm: Agricultural contractors ‘exempt’ from escalated measures
Agricultural contracting activities were confirmed as “exempt” from the Government’s latest country-wide restrictions.
In a message to members, the FCI (the Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland) confirmed that, following its communication with the Department of Agriculture, contractors were named on the list of “essential services” that can continuing working.
8:35pm: Food production ‘exempt’ from tighter Covid-19 restrictions
Farming activities were listed as exempt from a series of further Government restrictions to be implemented in order to protect the nation’s citizens from Covid-19, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated.
“With effect from midnight tonight [Friday, March 27] for a two-week period until Easter Sunday, April 12, everybody must stay at home in all circumstances, except for the following situations…[including] for farming purposes; that is food production and the care of animals,” the Taoiseach said.
8:00pm: FTMTA postpones Grass & Muck 2020
Grass & Muck 2020 was postponed from May 14 to a date in August, the Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association (FTMTA) confirmed.
In a statement issued on Friday, March 27, the organisation announced that the much-anticipated event is being pushed back to an (as of yet) undetermined date in the second half of August.
5:23pm: ICSA calls for ‘extraordinary agriculture programme’ from Europe
Calls were made for the European Central Bank (ECB) to make extra funding available in addition to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for an ‘extraordinary agriculture programme’.
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) said that the “unprecedented” Covid-19 crisis cannot be tackled within “the already stretched resources of the CAP”.
5:10pm: Dairy industry braces for ‘probability’ of supply-chain disturbance
The Irish dairy industry braced itself for the “probability” of processing lines going down due to the spread of Covid-19, based on comparative data from the Health Service Executive (HSE).
This unsettling projection emerged following talks between the HSE and Dairy Industry Ireland (DII).
5:04pm: €2.5 million funding for local radio
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Richard Bruton announced €2.5 million in “urgent funding” for local and independent radio stations.
Minister Bruton said: “Our local and independent radio stations have a crucial role to play as we respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
2:00pm: UK Prime Minister tests positive for Covid-19
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that he tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19) after developing “mild symptoms”, with UK Secretary for Health Matt Hancock issuing a similar message.
12:40pm: Bank of Ireland outlines Covid-19 supports for farmers
Bank of Ireland asked farmers who may be worried about the impact of Covid-19 to make contact and review its range of supports.
The bank said it has a range of supports available to farmers including the provision of emergency working capital and payment flexibility on loans.
10:12am: Linden workers refuse to start shifts over Covid-19 measures
As many as 60 workers refused to start their shifts at the Linden Foods site in Dungannon on Friday morning, March 27.
The workers demanded “immediate talks” with management and said there was a “total absence” of social distancing measures on the boning line, in the canteen and at entry and exit points.
6:10am: Retailer demand for potatoes increases
Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, demand for potatoes increased in retailers, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).
However, demand from the food service industry is down. It is estimated that there is currently enough potato stock to meet market demands until mid-August.
Thursday, March 26
5:40pm: Fendt production suspended at 2 plants
The agricultural machinery company AGCO – manufacturer of Fendt, among other brands – suspended production at its Marktoberdorf and Asbach-Bäumenheim sites in Germany due to Covid-19.
5:10pm: Covid-19 sparks upsurge in people making wills
The Covid-19 pandemic sparked a large surge in people in the Republic of Ireland looking to get their affairs in order by making their wills.
4:50pm: Measures to allow up to €100,000 in state aid for farmers
The European Commission adopted measures to support the EU’s agri-food sector by allowing member states to provide increased state aid of up to €100,000 for farmers.
3:29pm: Aldi to fast-track payments for Irish food and drink suppliers
Aldi said that it will fast-track payments to over 200 of its Irish small and medium-sized food and drink suppliers. This will apply to all suppliers that transact up to €1 million worth of business annually with Aldi.
3:29pm: Spanish farmers aid authorities in battle against Covid-19
Spanish farmer representative organisation Asociación Agraria Jóvenes Agricultores (ASAJA) revealed that members of its branch in Salamanca offered their tractors and services to local authorities to help disinfect local streets and towns – to limit the spread of Covid-19.
3:27pm: Pirbright begins testing potential vaccines on animals
The UK’s Pirbright Institute announced that it is to begin testing new coronavirus vaccines on animals to help combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
1:55pm: Planning system ‘remains open for business’
Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy confirmed that planning and building control systems remain “open for business”.
12:59pm: Covid-19 ‘a catalyst’ for online food purchasing
The impact of Covid-19, and the measures being taken to limit its spread, could prove to be a catalyst in shifting (food) consumer behaviour towards online sales, according to Tom Keogh, managing director of well-known potato and crisp company Keogh’s.
12:52pm: Potato sales ‘surge’ as consumers seek healthy choice
A surge in consumer demand for healthy, home-cooked foods saw a “phenomenal” uplift in fresh potato sales – with increases as high as 70% among certain customers, according to Tom Keogh, managing director of well-known potato and crisp company Keogh’s.
11:20am: Calls for meat processors to make electronic payments to farmers
Des Morrison, the livestock chairperson of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), called on meat processors to make electronic payments direct to farmers’ bank accounts for cattle supplies, in light of Covid-19.
He said that such a system should be voluntary for farmers – if they wished to avail of it – but that every processor should have the capacity to offer it.
11:00am: Farmers asked to safeguard agri contractors during pandemic
Farmers in Northern Ireland were asked to do what they can to protect agricultural contractors, as the UK government implements stricter ‘stay at home’ measures to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU’s) deputy president Victor Chestnutt said: “Agri contractors play a valuable role in the Northern Ireland agricultural industry.”
10:20am: Stark warning issued by dairy industry as peak approaches
Dairy Industry Ireland (DII) issued a stark warning amidst the approach of peak production.
DII warned that, with expansion, processing capacity in Ireland is extremely tight. The loss of any plant, due to loss of key staff or mechanical failure, has the potential to be “catastrophic” for farmers.
8:30am: Agri-food produce to move across Europe via ‘green lanes’
The European Commission issued guidelines for member states on how to keep freight moving across borders and how to deal with restrictions associated with Covid-19.
Transport of agri-food products will proceed in line with this ‘green lanes’ initiative.
Wednesday, March 25
10:00pm: DII ‘frustrated’ at EU ‘stalling’ on market stabilising tools amidst crisis
Dairy Industry Ireland (DII) vented its frustration at the “lack of movement” on vital market stabilising tools – such as private storage aid.
In a statement, DII director Conor Mulvihill reiterated the representative body’s view that “all supports and flexibility” must be given to the dairy industry as its peak-activity period approaches.
5:35pm: Teagasc joins national effort to tackle Covid-19 challenge
Teagasc said it “stands ready to contribute in any way possible” to authorities.
To date, Teagasc has been asked to: provide staff who could assist with Covid-19 testing in a laboratory; and to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to front-line medical staff.
5:33pm: Creed calls on EU to deploy ‘full range of supports’
Minister Creed urged the European Commission to deploy “the full range of supports available” to ensure that the agri-food sector can operate with the “minimum possible economic impact”.
“In order to keep food supplies moving, and to support this vital aspect of our rural and coastal economies, significant supports will be needed at an early stage,” he said.
5:27pm: Department of Agriculture offers staff to HSE
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine offered to contribute staff to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for the purpose of assisting in ‘contact tracing’, i.e. tracing people who may have been in contact with those infected with Covid-19.
4:50pm: Fianna Fáil outlines ‘action plan’ for farmers and agri-food sector
Fianna Fáil launched what it called an “action plan to support farmers and the agri-food sector” in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak.
Charlie McConalogue, the party’s spokesperson on agriculture, food and the marine, said the current health measures in place around the country were restricting economic activity and markets in the agri-food sector.
4:34pm: JCB to extend UK production shutdown to ‘at least’ the end of April
JCB extended the suspension of UK production until “at least” the end of April. The vast majority of its 6,500-strong workforce in the UK will now be asked to stop working.It has pledged to continue to pay employees unable to work.
4:00pm: Department outlines current stance on TB testing
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine issued a statement outlining its current stance on TB testing.
If a TB test is delayed due to Covid-19 related issues, the department said that the delay would not be a basis for referring the farmer for possible cross-compliance action.
3:20pm: Drummonds outlines branch-visiting protocol for customers
Feed, seed and grain merchant Drummonds issued protocols for customers visiting its branches.
Those needing to collect goods are asked to contact their branch by phone or to contact a technical sales advisor in advance and place an order. Several other measures were rolled out alongside.
2:33pm: Creed stresses ‘absolute obligation’ on processors after walkouts
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed said that meat and dairy processors have an “absolute obligation” to put contingency measures in place at processing plants.
He was reacting to the news that a number of employees in two Northern Irish meat plants had walked out – citing safety concerns over Covid-19 as the reason.
2:06pm: Farmers urged to have a plan in place in case they get ill
The Minister for Agriculture in Northern Ireland – Edwin Poots – urged farmers to make contingency plans for their farms in case they are infected with Covid-19 and rendered unable to work.
He said: “As part of planning for Covid-19 I would advise some simple steps that will help alleviate any pressure should you, a family member or key workers on the farm take ill.”
12:19pm: Cereals event in the UK to go online for 2020
The organisers of Cereals – the UK-based tillage event – said that this year’s event will “go online“, as a result of Covid-19.
In a statement, it said: “Based on our exhibitors’ and visitors’ feedback, as well as advice from global health responders, Cereals will be postponed until June 2021.”
11:17am: Some staff at ABP and Moy Park ‘hold walk-out’ over Covid-19 concerns
Large numbers of staff held a walk-out at sites owned by Moy Park and ABP in Northern Ireland, according to trade union Unite the Union.
11:07am: Dairygold stores switch to ‘call and collect’ only
Dairygold announced that its agribusiness retail division – Co-op Superstores – will switch to “call and collect” service only from Wednesday, March 25.
10:15am: Department to continue farm inspections and TB testing in NI
The Minister for Agriculture in Northern Ireland – Edwin Poots – confirmed that on-farm inspections and testing (for bovine TB) will continue, but only in line with the latest health advice.
10:06am: Young Farmers Scheme interviews to take place over the phone
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine confirmed that inspection interviews for the Young Farmers Scheme will take place over the phone “for the foreseeable future”.
10:02am: GDT platform to ‘remain fully operational’
A spokesperson from the Global Dairy Trade (GDT) trading platform said that it would “continue to remain fully operational” with auctions to continue as normal – amidst the unfolding Covid-19 saga.
6:30am: Farm leaders react to nationwide mart close-down
Farm organisation leaders weighed in with their views on the decision of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to suspend the country’s mart trade.
The development – effective from midnight, Tuesday, March 23 – was announced as one of a plethora of sweeping new restrictions to help curtail the spread of Covid-19.
Tuesday, March 24
10:50pm: Marts set to operate farm-to-farm movements – MMI
The Mart Managers of Ireland (MMI) confirmed that marts are set to operate “farm-to-farm movements” for those that need to move stock in the short-term.
The chair of MMI – which represents around 30 marts nationwide – confirmed that all its marts would shut down with immediate effect in support of the Government’s effort to contain the spread of Covid-19.
8:31pm: Agri stores listed as ‘essential retail outlets’ by Government
Agricultural stores supplying animal feed, medicines and bedding, as well as shops supplying farming equipment, were listed among stores deemed to be “essential retail outlets” by the Government.
The “indicative list” included 14 definitions of such vital outlets, ranging from banks and laundries to food stores, pharmacies and safety supply stores.
4:15pm: All marts ‘to shut’ – Taoiseach update on Covid-19
Outlets including livestock marts are to close as the Government ramped up its measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the Taoiseach said in an address to the nation on Tuesday, March 24.
4:00pm: Taoiseach addresses the nation
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addressed the nation. Among a raft of new measures, he said that “no unnecessary travel should take place within the country or overseas.” He asked people to stay at home “if at all possible”.
He also said that the following new actions are being taken – effective from midnight on Tuesday, March 24. He said: “All theatres, clubs, gyms, leisure centres, hairdressers, betting offices, marts, markets, casinos, bingo halls, libraries and other similar outlets are to shut.”
2:45pm: Pig prices continue to be impacted by Covid-19
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Pigs Committee chairman Tom Hogan said that pig prices continue to be impacted by Covid-19 – with an apparent drop of 4c/kg witnessed this week.
12:22pm: Farm body calls for ‘flexibility’ for Green Cert
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) called on Teagasc to “show flexibility” in the awarding of the Green Cert this year.
The IFA said that, because large numbers of students are going to experience difficulty completing their course due to Covid-19 restrictions, some leeway needs to be shown.
10:58am: IFRG calls for twin-pronged approach to protect farmers
The Irish Family-Farm Rights Group (IFRG) called on the Government to adopt a twin-pronged approach to protect farm incomes – using the “usual intervention measures required at such times” together with “targeted support for already low-income family farms”.
10:42am: Department: ‘No plans at present’ to reduce ANC stocking requirements
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine issued a response to a proposal – from the Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS) – for a reduction in the retention period for Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) eligibility.
A spokesperson for the department said: “There are no plans at present to reduce the stocking density requirements for the ANC scheme but this will be kept under constant review.”
10:15am: FSAI issues further guidelines for food workers
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) issued further guidelines for those who work with open food, such as deli counters and similar food services.
The authority stressed that: “Staff should not work if they have any symptoms of Covid-19.”
8:07am: Macra na Feirme: ‘No justification for a reduction in beef price at all’
Reacting to the announcement of closures by McDonald’s and Supermac’s, Thomas Duffy – president of Macra na Feirme – argued that there is “no justification for a reduction in beef price at all”.
6:00am: Logjam looming in sheep factories
A contact in one sheep factory told AgriLand: “The system has crashed. Freezers are full at the moment; we have had to cancel our kill on Wednesday [March 25]. The market is flooded at the moment and we can’t cope with the numbers of hoggets that are coming through.”
Monday, March 23
9:58pm: UK announces 3-week lock-down
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a three-week lock-down for the UK in an effort to contain Covid-19.
In an address on Monday, March 23, Johnson said people would only be allowed to leave their homes for specific reasons including: shopping for basic necessities; one form of exercise a day; any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; and travelling to and from work, but only where absolutely necessary.
5:56pm: Veterinary Council of Ireland issues updated guidance
The Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI) issued updated guidance for vets around the country as coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to spread.
The council highlighted that it is increasingly likely that over the coming weeks, due to self-isolation or social distancing measures, veterinary practices across the country will be stretched.
5:49pm: Meat industry experiencing ‘major disruption’
Meat Industry Ireland (MII) warned that the meat industry in Ireland is experiencing “major disruption to normal trading conditions”.
MII said that food-service outlets across Europe – including restaurants, quick-service restaurants and caterers – are closing down, due to restrictions related to Covid-19.
5:25pm: Department: Don’t come to our offices ‘without an appointment’
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine asked people to only come to its offices by appointment for the foreseeable future.
A text message circulated by the department said: “In order to protect customers and staff, we are asking that you do not visit Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine offices without an appointment. For most services, you can use our phone, email or online facilities.”
4:58pm: Diageo pledges 2 million litres of alcohol to produce sanitiser
Diageo pledged up to two million litres of alcohol – to enable the creation of more than eight million bottles of hand sanitiser.
The company, which owns the Guinness and Baileys brands in Ireland (among others), says that the aim is to help protect front-line healthcare workers in the fight against Covid-19.
3:55pm: IFA president proposes raft of measures to deal with Covid-19
Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan proposed a number of measures (to be instigated by the European Commission and Minister Michael Creed).
These include: the suspension of all non-EU beef imports; adjustments to state aid rules; additional urgent direct payment supports to farmers; and a review of all farm inspection requirements.
3:52pm: All Supermac’s outlets to close by Thursday, March 26
Supermac’s announced that it will close all of its outlets across the country by Thursday, March 26, at 7:00pm.
The “phased” closure will apparently allow emergency services using the outlets (for food) to make alternative arrangements.
3:05pm: Confirmation that all marts have closed in Northern Ireland
It was confirmed to AgriLand that all marts in Northern Ireland have closed, albeit temporarily, due to the unfolding Covid-19 (coronavirus) crisis.
2:53pm: Veterinary Ireland: Measures in place to keep vet services available
Veterinary Ireland confirmed that veterinary practices, as well as state and local authority veterinary services nationwide, will “endeavour to remain open and operating throughout the Covid-19 national emergency period”.
2:31pm: Fleadh Cheoil 2020 deferred until 2021
Following rumblings that had initially emerged some days earlier, it was confirmed that Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2020 (due to take place in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, in August) has been deferred until next year – due to Covid-19.
12:35pm: Further animal feed companies introduce Covid-19 measures
Meath-based animal feeds agri-business McAuley Feeds introduced a series of measures aimed at minimising the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
The measures are aimed at ensuring the safety of the public, a spokesperson for the feed company said. They will apply from Monday, March 23.
11:48am: Gardaí mobilise to assist isolated rural elderly
Members of An Garda Síochána mobilised around the country to assist elderly people in isolated rural areas, amid the ongoing Covid-19 situation.
Gardaí called in on members of the public in counties: Clare; Cork; Kilkenny; Carlow; Sligo; Leitrim; and Donegal – among other regions.
11:27am: Calls for Aid to Private Storage measures after McDonald’s closure
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) called for the “immediate introduction” of market support measures – such as Aid to Private Storage (APS) – following the decision by McDonald’s to close its outlets in Ireland and the UK.
11:18am: Moy Park to take on ‘hundreds’ of staff to meet demand
Northern Ireland agri-food giant Moy Park Food announced plans to take on “hundreds” of temporary staff across the UK as part of efforts to meet increased demand sparked by Covid-19.
10:59am: Dairy Industry Ireland: ‘Agri stores are absolutely integral’
Dairy Industry Ireland (DII) described agricultural stores as “absolutely integral to the food supply chain and the dairy processing chain”.
DII director Conor Mulvihill told AgriLand that “such businesses are vital in supplying farmers with feeds, medicines and cleaning detergents among other things”.
10:30am: Large number of marts across Northern Ireland suspend operations
A large number of marts across Northern Ireland announced the suspension of operations for at least two weeks – with immediate effect.
The announcement came following heightened concern over the escalating spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).
10:00am: Tesco changes payment terms for small suppliers
Tesco Ireland announced that it is temporarily changing its payment terms to ensure that “small, local suppliers get paid as quickly as possible” during the Covid-19 crisis.
Invoices will now be processed within five days, as opposed to the current period of 14 days.
Sunday, March 22
10:49pm: McDonald’s to close all Irish and UK restaurants
McDonald’s announced that all its restaurants in Ireland and the UK will close from 7:00pm on Monday, March 23.
The news will come as a body blow to the Irish beef sector, with McDonald’s claiming the title of the largest buyer of Irish beef by volume every year.
4:27pm: Major retailer on recruitment drive to cope with demand
One of Ireland’s major food retail, wholesale and food-service companies has announced its intention to hire hundreds of new staff on a temporary basis, in response to increased demand it is seeing in stores around the country.
The company – Musgrave Group – is primarily recruiting people with experience in retail, fresh food, hospitality, driving and warehousing.
12:15pm: ‘Ongoing engagement’ between department officials and leaders of farming organisations
Minister Michael Creed said that he and department officials “continue to engage with the leaders of the farming organisations and other stakeholders”.
The aim is apparently “to ensure that essential services such as: payment processing; TB testing; animal welfare inspections; animal identification and passport issuing; BVD testing; controls at livestock marts; and animal export certification can continue to enable the business of farming to operate”.
11:30am: Details released of minister’s meeting with meat and dairy industries
Minister Michael Creed confirmed that he chaired tele-conferences on Thursday, March 18, with meat and dairy chief executives and representative organisations to discuss contingency planning and priorities.
Participants were reportedly briefed on the “whole of Government” response to Covid-19 and, more specifically, on the measures put in place by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine “to try to ensure the continuity of vital services to the sector”.
11:00am: Minister Doyle issues updates to forestry industry
Minister Andrew Doyle confirmed that he has already held a conference call with the Forestry Industry Ireland Council, which comprises chief executives of the main forestry companies.
The discussion focused primarily on licencing for the sector and the important role that the sector can play in maintaining employment in the rural economy at the moment.
Saturday, March 21
8:30pm: CAFRE ceases face-to-face educational programmes in response to Covid-19
Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture Edwin Poots has announced that the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (CAFRE) is to cease face-to-face delivery of all educational programmes, in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).
7:48pm: Glanbia Announces ‘Call And Collect’ Service From Monday
Glanbia revealed that it will operate a “call and collect” service from its agri stores across the country from 9:00am on Monday, March 23, until further notice in an effort to contain Covid-19.
This “call and collect” measure applies to orders that would normally have been made in person by customers calling to Glanbia branches, according to the agri-business giant.
1:55pm: Minister Creed to discuss Covid-19 response at EU Agriculture Council
Minister Creed affirmed that he has asked EU Agricultural Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski to ensure that the full range of market supports available under the Common Market Organisation Regulation are available for deployment in response to any emerging market disturbance.
The minister will participate in next week’s EU Agriculture Council meeting, which will be held by video-conference and chaired by the Croatian presidency of the EU.
1:50pm: All Teagasc advisory offices ‘will remain open’
Prof. Gerry Boyle, director of Teagasc, stated: “All Teagasc advisory offices will remain open but farmers are invited to conduct as much business as possible by telephone.”
He continued: “Office and farm visits, where absolutely necessary, will be facilitated through an appointment and appropriate protocols are in place to ensure the safety of our clients and staff.”
1:45pm: Bord Bia to ‘maintain essential services’
Commenting on the unfolding crisis, Tara McCarthy – the Bord Bia chief executive – said: “Bord Bia, as part of a whole of Government response to Covid-19, is maintaining essential services both in Ireland and across our 14 international offices during this time.”
She added: “All the while, we are following Department of Health and Health Service Executive [HSE] advice in order to protect staff and compliance.”
6:10am: Covid-19 affects global markets, including grain prices
The value of the UK pound (against the US dollar) dropped to its lowest level since 1985, according to reports from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
This allowed the price of LIFFE wheat to increase.
Friday, March 20
6:52pm: Increased turnaround times for BVD testing
The impact of Covid-19 on Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) testing is expected to result in an increase in turnaround times for tests in the coming weeks.
The news was encompassed in a statement from the BVD Implementation Group issued on Friday, March 20.
3:46pm: Irish distillers provides HSE with alcohol gel
Irish Distillers – known for whiskeys such as Jameson, Midleton and Powers – confirmed that it has partnered with Mervue Laboratories in Cork to produce alcohol gel for the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The move is aimed to help curb the spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus).
3:20pm: Dairy Industry Ireland warns of ‘grim’ challenges
Speaking to AgriLand, director of Dairy Industry Ireland (DII) Conor Mulvihill warned that Covid-19 (coronavirus) is leading to a number of factors which will make for “challenging times ahead” for the dairy sector.
3:14pm: Minister seeks private storage aid option for dairy
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed wrote to the European Commission to seek market supports, including the opening of its Private Storage Aid (PSA) option for Irish dairy products, in the event of market disturbance caused by Covid-19.
3:00pm: MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan calls for ‘total lock-down’
Midlands North West MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan issued a call for a “total lock-down”, saying that a “lock-down – right now – is the only ‘medicine’ to counter this virus”.
2:51pm: TDs: ‘Urgent supports’ needed for independent radio
A group of independent TDs called for urgent supports for independent and regional radio services, as well as local newspapers, which are a “vital lifeline” in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis.
1:20pm: Carnaross Mart ‘open’ but with ‘tighter protocols’
Carnaross Mart (Co. Meath) confirmed that it is “currently open for business”, albeit with a “further tightening of protocols” due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Scheduled business will go ahead on Monday, March 23, and Tuesday, March 24. However, sheep sales have reportedly been cancelled until further notice.
1:10pm: Covid-19 hampers EU-UK trade talks
The situation surrounding Covid-19 hampered trade negotiations between the EU and the UK, with a round of talks set for London having been cancelled.
The UK’s lead negotiator – David Frost – was reportedly showing “mild symptoms” and had decided to self-isolate. However, he had not yet been diagnosed with the virus.
12:35pm: Mounting delays affecting calf export trade
The Department of Agriculture confirmed that the country’s calf export trade is experiencing delays at some border crossings, due to the European Commission’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
12:15pm: Cashel Mart to go ahead with calf-only sale
Cashel Mart, which normally holds a cattle and calf sale on Saturdays, will proceed with a calf-only sale on Saturday, March 21.
The cattle sale is scheduled to take place separately, in a bid to limit numbers of attendees, on Tuesday, March 24.
12:10pm: Mid Tipp Mart to remain closed temporarily
Mid Tipp Mart in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, confirmed that it will remain closed temporarily; the situation will reportedly be reviewed on Sunday, March 29.
11:05am: ‘Serious concerns’ over recreational use of farmland
Flor McCarthy, the chairperson of the National Hill Committee of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) said that he has “serious concerns” over dogs being brought on to hills – especially during lambing season.
He explained: “The problem is exacerbated due to the increase of recreational users as a result of the coronavirus, as many other activities are closed off.”
10:00am: Dáil passes emergency Covid-19 legislation
The Dáil passed emergency legislation aimed at tackling the spread of Covid-19 in a one-day session in the chamber on Thursday, March 19.
The legislation – the full title of which is ‘The Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020 – was passed at around 9:30pm.
Thursday, March 19
10:25pm: Commissioner Wojciechowski writes to EU agriculture ministers
In the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Janusz Wojciechowski, wrote to the agriculture minister of each member state.
In the letter, he said: “Decisive and effective actions are needed to swiftly respond to this crisis and to alleviate the impact on our farmers and the entire food chain. You can count on my support.”
7:11pm: Department of Agriculture laboratories to assist in Covid-19 testing
News emerged that laboratories operated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine would “soon” be assisting in the efforts to detect and diagnose Covid-19 in humans.
A spokesperson for the department told AgriLand that the laboratories will be used to assist the National Virus Reference Laboratory at University College Dublin (UCD).
5:20pm: Extension announced for Nitrates Derogation applications
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, announced a short extension to the closing date for the 2020 Nitrates Derogation applications.
The closing date was extended to Friday, April 24.
5:05pm: Raphoe Mart reopens with ‘new measures’ in place
Raphoe Mart re-opened its doors to facilitate its weekly cattle sale which, under normal circumstances, takes place every Thursday.
As a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Raphoe Mart, along with two other Donegal-based marts, made the decision to close on Friday, March 13, amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
4:58pm: Covid-19 impact ‘may cut member state contributions’ to EU budget
Fianna Fáil MEP for Ireland South Billy Kelleher told AgriLand that the economic impact (throughout Europe) of Covid-19 may result in EU member states “being less inclined to contribute money to the EU’s budget”.
3:50pm: Vets running med pick-up services and rotating staff
A number of veterinary practices around the country are taking measures to enact social distancing precautions, including the operation of a pick-up service for animal medications as well as staff rotations, according to the Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI).
3:45pm: Calls for ‘increased ministerial powers’ inCovid-19 legislation
Increased ministerial powers were called for by independent TDs Marian Harkin, Michael Fitzmaurice and Michael McNamara as part of the emergency Covid-19 legislation that was discussed in the Dáil on Thursday, March 19.
3:17pm: ‘Delays and disruption’ at EU borders
Three leading bodies in the European agricultural sector warned that delays and disruption at country borders are affecting the delivery of certain agricultural and manufactured products.
2:05pm: Dáil meets on emergency Covid-19 legislation
A reduced Dáil sat to pass emergency legislation in response to the national Covid-19 outbreak.
2:00pm: Michel Barnier tests positive for Covid-19
Chief Brexit negotiator for the European Commission Michel Barnier confirmed that he has tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus.
1:15pm: Consumers urged to ‘make extra effort’ to buy Irish food
Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture Brian Stanley called for a ‘Buy Irish Food’ campaign “to support workers and protect Irish businesses”.
He urged consumers around the country “make an extra effort” to prioritise the purchase of Irish food products over the coming days and weeks.
12:58pm: Deadline for Leaving Cert Agricultural Science course-work extended
Minister for Education Joe McHugh announced that the deadline for completion of the Leaving Cert Agricultural Science course-work has been extended to Friday, May 15, due to the outbreak of Covid-10.
This was welcomed by the Irish Agricultural Science Teachers’ Association.
12:30pm: NPA says exhibitors would be ‘fully refunded’ if ‘Ploughing’ does not go ahead
Exhibitors at the 2020 National Ploughing Championships would be guaranteed a “full refund” if the event does not go ahead – due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, according to the National Ploughing Association (NPA).
11:17am: Progressive Genetics continuing services but ‘taking prudent approach’
Agricultural services firm Progressive Genetics affirmed that its AI services will continue, but with strict hygiene protocols in the face of Covid-19.
It says that its staff (personnel) have been issued with a “standard operating procedure” to enable service to continue with “maximum protection”.
10:40am: Banks agree to ‘payment break’ for customers affected by Covid-19
Irish banks agreed to a “payment break” for up to three months for business and personal customers affected by Covid-19 (coronavirus), according to the sector’s representative body Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI).
10:30am: Ballymahon Mart confirms that it is ‘temporarily closed’
Ballymahon Mart (Co. Longford) confirmed that it is ‘temporarily closed’ at present, but is working behind the scenes to develop measures and protocols to enable it to re-open – in “full compliance” with best practice.
8:06am: ECB announces €750 billion bond-buying programme
The European Central Bank (ECB) announced a €750 billion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) in response to the continued spread of Covid-19 – and the subsequent economic impact of it.
The governing council of the ECB decided on three key measures in its announcement.
7:50am: Contractors issue Covid-19 guidelines for drivers
Guidelines for disinfecting the tractor cab and avoiding Covid-19 were issued for tractor and machinery drivers by the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI).
In a wide-ranging list, the contractor representative organisation outlined measures drivers should take, extending from disinfecting door handles, to social distancing.
Wednesday, March 18
7:30pm: 2 workers test positive for Covid-19 at Kepak factory
Two factory workers at Kepak Clonee, located in Damastown, Co. Dublin, tested positive for Covid-19.
It is understood that the employees, who tested positive on Tuesday, worked in the plant’s boning hall. All protocols in terms of contact tracing are “being adhered to” by the factory – which remains fully operational.
5:45pm: Aurivo announces temporary suspension of livestock sales
Aurivo Marts announced that it will be temporarily suspending all its livestock sales from Monday, March 23, until at least the end of the month.
The decision was made in light of Covid-19, and will be reviewed in the intervening period.
5:40pm: Derogations for driving and resting times announced
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport agreed to allow a temporary and urgent derogation in respect of certain provisions of the EU driving and resting time rules.
The proposed derogation will apply to all operators and drivers subject to the EU driver’s hours and tachograph rules engaged in the carriage of goods, including oil supplies, etc.
4:40pm: Agricultural consultants to hold meetings ‘strictly by appointment’
The Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) announced that its members’ offices will be closed to the public until further notice, and that appointments will be “strictly by appointment only”.
The ACA decision was made “in the interest of the health and safety” of its members and their staff and clients.
4:30pm: JCB halts UK production
JCB stopped production at all of its UK manufacturing plants as a result of “disruption from the worldwide coronavirus pandemic causing an unprecedented reduction in global demand”.
The company halted production for the rest of this week and the whole of next week at its nine manufacturing plants in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Wrexham.
3:40pm: Munster Bovine AI services to continue, but with strict protocols
Very strict protocols were announced for both Munster Bovine AI and EDIY technicians and for Munster Bovine’s farmer customers to minimise the risk to human health when AI services are provided on-farm.
This protocol includes very strict hygiene guidelines and social distancing recommendations for Munster Bovine personnel to follow before, during and after AI service farm visits.
3:20pm: Browse, buy or sell livestock (or other farm essentials) online…on Haystack.ie
As the country, and the agricultural sector, comes to terms with the Covid-19 outbreak, certain mart sales are taking place under strict restrictions, while others have opted to close their doors for the short-term – in a bid to halt the virus.
1:30pm: Department rules out BPS application extension
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said that it will not be seeking an extension to the May 15 deadline for receiving applications under the Basic Payments Scheme (BPS).
12:40pm: ICOS proposes reduced ANC retention periods
The Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS) proposed a reduction in the retention period for Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) eligibility as a method to ease pressure on farmers and marts during discussions with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Commenting, ICOS executive Ray Doyle said: “If marts can spread out their usual peak spring sales it will greatly assist with ensuring compliance.”
11:00am: Carrigallen Mart outlines new sale dates and protocols
Carrigallen Mart (Co. Leitrim) contacted AgriLand to outline a changed sales schedule, as well as certain precautions it will be taking.
A heifer sale will go ahead on Thursday, March 19, as planned, but a calf sale that was supposed to be held later in the week will now also be held on Thursday, while previously scheduled sales on Saturday, March 21, and Monday, March 23, will not go ahead.
The mart is also operating a ticketing system – first implemented on Saturday, March 14.
10:00am: FTMTA monitoring situation
The Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association (FTMTA) said it is monitoring the Covid-19 situation. A decision will be made regarding Grass & Muck 2020 at the end of the month.
7:23am: Clare Marts reveals ‘further tightening’ of protocols
Clare Marts announced a “further tightening” of protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19 – but confirmed that it is “currently open for business”.
The mart said that the the six-point list “applies until further notice”.
Tuesday, March 17
9:00pm: Taoiseach on need to ‘cocoon’ elderly in days ahead
The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, addressed the nation with the latest information on the pandemic – outlining that at a certain point it will be advised to “cocoon” the elderly and most vulnerable in their homes for several weeks.
With the emergency likely to go on far beyond March 29 and into the summer months, Varadkar reiterated the need for citizens to continue to adhere to social distancing and strict hygiene guidelines.
6:05pm: Cabinet approves emergency Covid-19 legislation
The cabinet signed off on emergency Covid-19 legislation that reportedly gives the Government legal power to close down mass gatherings.
According to RTÉ, the new measures – expected to be passed by the Dáil this Thursday, March 19 – also strengthen enforcement capacity when it comes to individuals that forgo self-isolation.
5:02pm: Royal Highland Show cancelled – amidst growing concerns over Covid-19
The Royal Highland Show – due to be held on June 18-21 just outside Edinburgh, Scotland – was cancelled, amidst mounting concerns over Covid-19.
“The decision was taken following a virtual meeting of the directors…and is in line with Government guidance.”
4:32pm: Cahir Mart’s weekly sheep sale postponed; cattle and calf sales to go ahead
Cahir Mart (Co. Tipperary) announced that it will not go ahead with its weekly sheep sale on Wednesday, March 18. However, its cattle and calf sales will go ahead.
4:17pm: Gortatlea Mart closed for the next 2 weeks
Gortatlea Mart (Co. Kerry) announced the closure of its mart for the next two weeks, amidst coronavirus concerns.
“The health of our staff, buyers, sellers and visitors is of great importance to us.”
4:00pm: Timely advice for dairy farmers…amidst concerns over coronavirus
AgriLand outlined useful and timely advice for dairy farmers – farmers for whom people (from outside the farm-gate) must enter more frequently than many other farming enterprises.
2:10pm: President of the country’s biggest farm organisation issues a renewed appeal
Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan issued an appeal to farmers – in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak – stating: “Farmers and everybody involved in the sector need to fully observe all Health Service Executive [HSE] protocols and do everything they can to minimise risk, so we can keep processors, co-op stores and marts operating.
“It is particularly important that farmers attending marts follow all the guidelines strictly.”
2:05pm: Covid-19 negatively impacts beef factory quotes
As of Monday evening, March 16, all beef plants are continuing to operate – following “strict, Government-issued protocols” to ensure that slaughtering and processing can continue.
Cows witnessed the largest price-drop, with some plants cutting quotes by up to 20c/kg.
11:47am: Newry and Lurgan shows cancelled, as well as UK Grassland & Muck event
Covid-19 continues to take its toll on the calendar of agricultural events. The latest cancellations in Northern Ireland include Newry Show (June 27) and Lurgan Show (June 6). Killyleagh Show (May 2) has been postponed.
The UK-based Grassland & Muck event – due to take place on May 20-21 in England – has also been cancelled.
1:02am: EU offers 1-month extension to CAP application deadline
The European Commission announced that all member states can now choose to extend the deadline by which farmers must submit their applications for CAP payments.
Member states can now opt for a new deadline of June 15, 2020, instead of May 15, 2020.
9:05am: GVM to hold only calf sales in its marts until March 28
Golden Vale Co-operative Mart (GVM Group) announced that it will hold only calf sales at its livestock marts – with all other sales suspended until at least March 28.
8:00am: EU to close borders for 30 days
EU leaders are expected to approve proposals for member states to close its external borders for 30 days.
The ban is expected to be endorsed during a video-style summit involving EU leaders at some point on Tuesday, March 17.
Monday, March 16
10:54pm: Managers introduce ‘buyer-only entry’ at marts
The Mart Managers of Ireland announced new public health measures for its members, including: ‘buyer-only’ entry; a sign-in of all people on the premises; maintaining appropriate distances; and other steps.
7:00pm: Gardaí hire 210 ‘contingency vehicles’ to assist communities
An Garda Síochána announced that it is in the process of hiring up to 210 additional vehicles to provide extra mobility to members nationwide – and to also bring increased community support in the ongoing battle against the spread of Covid-19.
6:30pm: IGFA reassures farmers about feed supplies
The Irish Grain and Feed Association (IGFA) reassured farmers that animal feed supplies are currently secure and ports remain open.
Heather Peppard, a nutritionist with Brett Brothers, spoke to AgriLand and stated: “Farmers are part of the food chain so we are being assessed as a critical business. Animals have to be fed; because farmers are part of the food chain the input supplies will continue to farms.”
The IGFA also issued advice on feed deliveries.
6:20pm: Progressive Genetics suspends manual milk recording
Progressive Genetics suspended its manual milk recording service for two weeks, due to the ongoing developments with Covid-19.
Progressive Genetics milk recording manager Stephen Connolly explained: “We have to be responsible. We want to protect our staff, our contractors and our farmers. That’s what’s most important.”
6:15pm: ‘Strong trade’ in Tullow Mart, with over 600 sheep on offer
Tullow Mart held its weekly sheep sale on Monday, March 17, where over 600 sheep were on offer.
According to the mart manager, Eric Driver, both buyers and sellers were “very sensible” when it came to adhering to the marts’ guidelines on social spacing and preventative measures to reduce contact with people.
6:00pm: ICSA tells farmers to hold off sending livestock to the factory in response to price cuts
Farmers should hold off sending livestock to the factory, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association’s (ICSA’s) Sean McNamara.
“Farmers are panicking and factories are looking to take advantage of this coronavirus outbreak which is wrong.”
5:30pm: Manorhamilton and Roscommon Marts’ sheep sales to go ahead on Wednesday
Manorhamilton Livestock Mart and Roscommon Mart announced that their weekly sheep sales are going ahead on Wednesday, March 18.
A spokesperson for Roscommon Mart explained: “As of now our weekly sale on Wednesday is going ahead. Unless we are told otherwise, we will continue to keep the mart open.”
4:45pm: 2020 Balmoral Show to be postponed
The Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) announced that it will postpone this year’s Balmoral Show, as coronavirus (Covid-19) numbers continue to rise in Northern Ireland.
The show was due to take place on May 13-16 but, instead, will take place in August. Record crowds of 120,000 attended the 2019 Balmoral Show.
4:40pm: Marts ‘continuing for now’
Co-operative marts are continuing to operate under the strict guidelines as issued by the Government on Thursday, March 13, according to the Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS).
“It’s business, not as usual, but continuing for now – and this may change day to day, depending on the overall situation and ongoing guidance from the authorities,” according to ICOS marts executive Ray Doyle.
4:00pm: Commission proposes ‘priority transport for food and perishable goods’
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced that essential goods – such as: medicines; perishable goods; food; and emergency services – will be given transport priority via ‘fast lanes’ to ensure economic continuity as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to unfold.
Temporary restrictions on non-essential travel to the EU for an initial period of 30 days – with the possibility of prolonging the time-frame as necessary – have also been proposed.
3:00pm: ‘Next 7 days vital’
Dr. Tony Holohan, the chief medical officer with the Department of Health, stated that the “next seven days are vital” in containing Covid-19.
The two most important pieces of advice to follow are, according to Dr. Holohan, to reduce your social contacts – see only a handful of people in your network – and by distancing yourself 2m from people in shops and supermarkets.
1:00pm: Mart Managers seek ‘workable solution’
The Mart Managers of Ireland organisation is trying to find a “workable solution” to allow marts to stay operating, while also complying with Government guidelines on social distancing in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The managers’ association is currently developing guidelines for members to ensure the continued flow of trade, while maintaining “high health and safety standards and protocols”.
12:30pm: Beef Market Taskforce to be rescheduled
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine confirmed that a meeting of the Beef Market Taskforce, which was set for an as yet unannounced date later this month, will be pushed back.
A spokesperson for the department told AgriLand: “Given the current advice in relation to Covid-19, the beef taskforce meeting which was planned to take place at the end of this month will be rescheduled for a later date.”
11:00am: Contractors close yards
The Farm Contractors of Ireland (FCI) issued a statement on its Facebook page saying that its members will close its yards from Monday as part of efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“In view of the current situation and the Government instructions regarding the fight against coronavirus, we inform you that our contractor yards will be closed to the public from Monday, March 16, until further notice.”
7:00am: Midlands machinery auction cancelled
Hennessy Auctioneers announced the cancellation of its monthly machinery auction that was scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 21, at the old mart in Portlaoise.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the auctioneer said it will continue to monitor the Covid-19 outbreak before deciding on a date for the next auction.
Sunday, March 15
9:45pm: Tullow Mart’s sheep sale going ahead on Monday, March 16
Tullow Mart announced that its weekly sheep sale is going ahead on Monday, March 16, at 2:00pm.
The mart manager, Eric Driver, said: “Our weekly sale is going ahead tomorrow. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing all day, with farmers looking to get stock booked in.
“In total, 40 people will be allowed into the mart ring at any one time, as we will be implementing strict social spacing measures.
We continue to review the situation on a daily basis, as well as adhering to the advice of the Department of Agriculture.
Concluding, Driver said: “We have a responsibility to keep feeding into the food chain and to ensure that we do that we need to allow farmers to sell their stock – as they also need to pay their bills as well.”
7:00pm: Members of the public asked not to enter farms and pubs asked to close
Members of the public were urged not to enter farmland for leisure activities such as walking, shooting or hunting.
Tim Cullinan, the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), said: “I am asking members of the public not to call to farms. Those who have business on farms should call strictly by appointment only.
It is absolutely vital that we keep our food supply chain moving. Many farms will be in trouble if the farmer falls ill or if people involved in processing or transporting produce or supplies become ill or have to self-isolate.
In other coronavirus-related developments, the Government asked pubs and bars to close from Sunday, until March 29, to mitigate against the spread of the virus.
6:45pm: 3 marts in Donegal close until further notice
Three marts in Co. Donegal have closed until further notice in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
- Raphoe Mart;
- Ballybofey & Stranorlar Mart;
- Inishowen Co-Operative Society Livestock Mart.
The three livestock marts were due to hold sales on Monday, March 16. However, the decision to postpone these sales until further notice was taken “in the interest of health and safety”.
2:15pm: Kildare Chilling issues guidelines to farmers/hauliers bringing livestock to its factory
Kildare Chilling issued the following guidelines that farmers/hauliers should adhere to when bringing livestock to its factory.
- Farmers who bring livestock to the factory should remain in their vehicles until it is time to unload;
- After unloading and the transfer of paperwork is complete, farmers should return to their vehicles, proceed to the wash-out area and leave the site;
- No farmers will be allowed to enter the site past the security check-point. Therefore, farmers will not have access to the toilet, canteen or offices;
- Cheques will be left out at the security check-point and can be collected there or, if a farmer prefers, can be posted.
1:30pm: ‘Farmers unhappy about being turned away from marts’
Some farmers are reportedly unhappy about being turned away from marts. In one example, a number of would-be mart-goers were denied entry to Baltinglass Mart’s weekly sheep sale on Saturday, March 14 – due to measures being undertaken in response to Covid-19.
Joe Kinsella of Baltinglass Mart explained: “I had to turn away about eight people yesterday. Some were very unhappy about it.
The majority of these were accompanied by children. I told them that I was following strict guidelines. The rest of the people that were turned away were neither buyers nor sellers…and had no business at the mart.
“Despite this, there were only about 70-75 people at the sale, so we didn’t have to implement a ticket system.”
10:30am: Taoiseach may seek enforcement powers to stop mass gatherings
On Sunday, March 15, the Taoiseach – Leo Varadkar – tweeted that he has asked the National Public Health Emergency Team for “further expert guidance” on stopping indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people.
He also tweeted that he “may seek enforcement powers from [the] Dáil/Seanad”.
Meanwhile, farming events that had been scheduled to take place over the coming weeks are – in increasing numbers – being cancelled.
Saturday, March 14
7:00pm: Dairygold outlines standard operating procedure for Covid-19 suppliers
On Saturday, March 14, Dairygold iterated its ‘standard operating procedure’ to be undertaken by (milk) suppliers if a case of Covid-19 is confirmed on their farm.
It urged any suppliers with a suspected or confirmed case to contact Dairygold, which would in turn notify hauliers and drivers.
Such suppliers must wear disposable gloves during milking and clean all surfaces that tanker drivers would come in contact with during milk collection.
6:45pm: Increasing numbers of pubs closing in parts of rural Ireland
Anecdotal reports are circulating that some pubs in various parts of the country are closing temporarily, in response to the unfolding situation…and in response to the Government’s guidance pertaining to large gatherings of people.
Notably, Center Parcs in Co. Longford – the high-profile resort in the heartland of rural Ireland – confirmed that it will close until Sunday, March 29.
3:30pm: Spain to enter state of alert, with government given power to occupy farms
The government of Spain has been given the power to occupy premises and properties of almost any kind – including farms – as the country enters an official state of alert.
According to the Financial Times, the government in Spain announced that the country will soon enter ‘lock-down’, with the government given wide-ranging powers to deal with the spread of coronavirus. Private homes are the only type of premises that won’t be potentially affected by these powers.
The Spanish authorities will also be able to limit or ration goods or services.
12:45pm: Glanbia Ireland reiterates protocols
Glanbia Ireland (GI) reiterated its precautionary protocols in relation to deliveries and milk collections from suppliers.
GI says that these measures would “allow us to continue to provide vital services for our farming community”.
GI originally issued its first tranche of protocols on Monday, March 9.
12:30pm: Some marts issue special ‘entry tickets’ to farmers
Headford Mart in Co. Galway – like some other marts around the country – issued tickets to buyers and sellers to gain entry into the ring for its cattle and sheep sale on Saturday, March 14.
In total, 90 tickets were printed and laminated for farmers that were either buying or selling livestock, with a further 10 tickets made available for the mart’s staff.
The mart manager, Joe Wynne said: “Only trading customers, with a ticket, are allowed into the ring. If a person leaves the ring, the ticket is taken off them and disinfected before being given to another person.”
11:30am: Farmers urged to keep in touch with elderly neighbours
Farmers were urged to keep in touch with their elderly neighbours and those who are farming alone.
Tim Cullinan, the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), said: “While older farmers and those with underlying medical conditions might be concerned about receiving visitors, it’s important that farmers make a special effort to keep in touch with their neighbours via phone.
“This is a time when those in the farming community need to support each other, while ensuring that those most at risk are supported.”
10:30am: Reiterated guidance from the Associated Livestock Marts
Associated Livestock Marts (ALM) reiterated that only ‘trading customers’ should attend marts until further notice – i.e. only those buying or selling livestock.
A spokesperson for ALM explained: “We ask that non-trading patrons refrain from visiting until further notice up to March 29, 2020, when further guidance will be provided.
The number of people attending individual mart ring-sides at any one time will be limited to 100 – which will be managed on a strict rotation system.
The spokesperson added: “Each of our member marts will be making their own decision on whether to continue to trade or not, so please keep in contact with your local mart.”
Friday, March 13
10:00pm: Department keeps show on the road
The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application date (deadline) will not be changed due to measures in relation to preventing the spread of [coronavirus] Covid-19, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
The department outlined some of its key priorities including: keeping food and other processing facilities operational, and ensuring that payments and commercial activities – which are necessary to protect farm incomes – can continue.
6:37pm: Tesco ‘temporarily closes’ fresh meat counters
Tesco moved to close its fresh meat counters during an “unprecedented busy time” for the retailer amid panic buying in the face of the spread of coronavirus Covid-19.
A spokesperson for Tesco explained: “We have taken the decision to temporarily close our fresh meat counters, as we are working to serve our customers during what is an unprecedented busy time in our stores.
“Our colleagues are focused on areas of our stores that are our busiest at this time.”
6:18pm: Aurivo introduces protocols but ‘remains open for business’
Aurivo introduced a strict protocol for milk collections and feed/fertiliser deliveries – but will remain open for business amid concerns regarding the spread of coronavirus Covid-19.
On the marts front, Aurivo Marts confirmed its scheduled sales would go ahead, but under new measures.
5:49pm: European Commission on member state options
There are a number of ways that EU member states can take effective action to limit economic damage caused by the impact of coronavirus Covid-19, according to European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager.
- working with governments to put in place schemes that compensate sectors for the damage they have suffered because of the Covid-19 outbreak;
- Allowing governments to put in place schemes that give small and medium-sized companies “the urgent liquidity they need”; and
- Using banks as a channel for support to the economy – including to small and medium-sized companies.
“If need be – in the coming weeks and months – we do have the rules in place to enable governments to ensure banks have adequate liquidity,” Vestager said.
4:53pm: Co-ops call for flexibility
ICOS said the Government will need to consider adjustments to working time provisions to allow for maximum flexibility for workers and employers within the Organisation of Working Time Act.
This will be important for the milk production and the processing sector, which is very seasonal in nature and will soon enter the peak production period, the association added.
This would typically entail the dairy farmer opening the dairy facilities for the milk collection vehicle and maintaining an appropriate distance from the driver until he or she departs.
3:24pm: Impact on CAP
Delays caused by Covid-19 to the ongoing reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) could mean a gap of up to two years between the current CAP and the new policy, according to MEP and First Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness.
2:45pm: Road Safety Authority tests suspended
The Road Safety Authority (RSA), after receiving advice from public health authorities, decided to suspend all driving tests following the conclusion of the last test on Friday, March 13.
The suspension of driving tests will run until Sunday, March 29, and this will be kept under review.
Those who have a driving test scheduled during the affected period will have the test re-scheduled free of charge and the RSA will be directly in contact with candidates in the coming days.
2:15pm: EU package
The European Commission announced plans to set up an investment initiative in the amount of €37 billion to deal with the spread of Covid-19.
This would amount to around €8 billion from the EU budget, which members states could use to supplement €29 billion of structural funding across the EU.
12:51pm: Colleges update
Agricultural science students in third level institutions around the country were informed that “face-to-face events with students” have been cancelled but online learning will continue.
A day earlier, University College Dublin (UCD) announced it was closing for “face-to-face events with students”, adding that it has postponed examinations planned for March, with an alternative format for these yet to be decided. Arrangements for the end of trimester examinations in May have yet to be made, UCD added.
Meanwhile, Teagasc colleges around the country will close, following the Government’s advice on the closure of educational institutions.
Teagasc is making contingency arrangements to deal with closures and will be in direct contact with learners.
12:30pm: Marts update
Carnaross Mart confirmed that it will resume business as normal on Monday evening, March 16, when a weanling sale is due to take place. However, restrictions will be in place due to the coronavirus.
A day earlier, the Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS) revealed that marts will be limiting the number of people attending individual ringsides to 100 people at a time on a rotation basis as part of their plans to follow Government protocols.
10:55am: Stance of farm organisations
Macra na Feirme established a management group to deal with the impact of Covid-19 and moved to suspend meetings and competitions to minimise the threat of the coronavirus.
A day earlier, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) all cancelled their March meetings and events, urging their members to follow Government guidelines.
10:18am: Bord na Móna machinery auction cancelled
The auction which Bord na Móna had organised to sell machinery deemed to be surplus to requirement on Saturday, March 14 has been postponed.
The sale had been due to take place at Bord Na Móna’s site in Derrygreenagh, Co. Offaly.