Limited reopening of marts ‘a welcome move in uncertain times’

The reopening of livestock marts for a limited range of essential services, while complying with Government guidelines regarding the Covid-19 outbreak, is a welcome move, according to independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

The Roscommon-Galway TD said he believes the decision – announced by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed this morning, Tuesday, March 31 – will ease some of the pressure on farmers.

Speaking on the matter, he said: “With grass growth picking up, this is traditionally a time of year when livestock changes hands in marts.

Farmers would have planned for this income stream – but no one could have predicted the impact this virus would have.

The TD added that, while it may not be business as usual at livestock marts, at least farmers who had planned to sell cattle or sheep at this time of year to improve cash-flow can do so.

“The beef sector has come under increasing pressure as a result of this outbreak, with the closure of restaurants and some fast-food outlets reducing the demand for beef across Europe.

“Meat factories have taken the decision to cut beef prices this week back to 350c/kg and only want ‘in-spec’ cattle to fill supermarket orders.

I also understand that some factories are dropping to a three-day killing week as a result of the virus outbreak.

Deputy Fitzmaurice stressed that, reopening marts, even on a limited basis, will give farmers another option to market their livestock during uncertain times.

“It should also facilitate the sale of calves and allow exports to continue, at a time when thousands of calves are being born on dairy farms across the country during the busy spring period.”

He added: “Livestock marts also need to liaise with exporters who may be trying to fill contracts for heavier cattle.

Marts could facilitate farmers who need to get their cattle weighed and act as a collection point for exporters.

This, the deputy said, would provide farmers with “yet another option” when it comes to marketing their livestock to secure the best price possible.

Continuing, the independent TD said more must be done: “Minister Creed must also go to Europe and secure a proper intervention price and Aids to Private Storage (APS) to support farmers during this difficult period.

On top of that, the minister must examine introducing a hardship payment to alleviate the pressure caused by the Covid-19 outbreak on the various farming sectors.

“The minister must continue to work with farmers during this difficult period,” deputy Fitzmaurice concluded.