Livestock marts have been “unfairly treated” by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine when it comes to the “finer details” of the ICT infrastructure scheme, independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has claimed.
The Marts ICT Infrastructure Scheme was launched on Monday (March 1). Having first been mooted in November of last year, it was expected that marts would receive funding of up to €5,000.
Speaking on the matter, deputy Fitzmaurice said: “While the scheme was a welcome development when it was first revealed last year, I feel that the finer details revealed this week are totally unfair.
It has been confirmed that investments made by marts in 2020 will not be eligible as part of the scheme. So now the department expects livestock marts to go out and spend more money, that they don’t have, in order to avail of a maximum grant of €5,000 – which covers just 50% of expenditure.
“In announcing the scheme this week, the minister praised livestock marts for providing a critical service to farmers during 2020 – with online sales taking centre-stage as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Roscommon-Galway TD added.
He said that marts moved online in 2020 to accommodate such online sales, noting the “considerable investments” required to do so.
“Now marts are being told the investments they made last year will not be eligible for this scheme, which I feel is totally unacceptable,” he said.
Marts have already borne the brunt of the costs and continue to make excessive payments when it comes insurance etc. When this scheme was initially mooted, marts welcomed it as a needed boost.
“Now, I fear that the uptake will be very little as marts may not have the funds to make further investments in ICT this year having already done so just a few months ago.
“I am calling on the minister to review the terms and conditions of this scheme to make it more beneficial for marts,” deputy Fitzmaurice concluded.