Marts get green light for ‘limited range’ of essential services

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will issue guidance to marts on “a very limited range of essential services” that comply with Covid-19 guidelines, according to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

In a statement this morning, Tuesday, March 31, the minister outlined his priorities for the agri-food sector in response to the challenges of the coronavirus.

“My department and I are in touch with stakeholders across the sector on a daily basis to share contingency planning and address issues as they arise, as part of the whole of Government response,” Minister Creed said.

“My department is to issue guidance to marts on a very limited range of essential services that comply with Government guidelines and do not require people to assemble.

These include measures to facilitate calf sales and the weighing of livestock, and online or brokerage services, and are subject to the approval of standard operating procedures by my department.

Continuing, the minister said that, for the next two weeks, routine departmental on-farm visits will not be taking place, unless required on a risk basis.

Essential services, such as disease control or reactor removal, will continue.

This will be kept under review as the situation evolves. Some inspections such as under the ‘Young Farmer Scheme’ are being conducted by telephone.

The minister also confirmed that the Calf Investment Scheme budget has been increased from €1.5 million to €4 million to fully fund all eligible applicants.

The minister added: “I would appeal to farmers to maintain farm safety as a priority at this difficult time.”

The agri-food sector is essential in keeping food on Irish supermarket shelves at a time of unprecedented retail demand, it was noted.

“I know that many food businesses have been badly affected by the loss of the food service markets, and my department and agencies are available to support these businesses to re-orient their products towards the retail market,” Minister Creed said.

The Department of Agriculture is in touch with the authorities in the UK and Northern Ireland, as well as EU colleagues, on a regular basis, to discuss shared interest in keeping food supplies moving.

Minister Creed said: “I am asking the food industry to do whatever it can to support its thousands of farmer suppliers at this time.

“The Government has already introduced a range of supports for employers and the self employed, and along with colleagues across the EU, I will vigorously pursue the market support options available under our shared Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policies, which should be deployed as soon as possible to mitigate the economic shocks,” the minister concluded.