Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has thanked farmers and marts for their efforts over the Covid-19 pandemic, on the day marts welcome back buyers and sellers ringside.

However, the minister urged all involved to adhere to public health guidelines, including social distancing and face-coverings.

The return of in-person sales will go hand-in-hand with continued online facilities for conducting sales.

Speaking to farmers and staff at Carndonagh Mart in Co. Donegal today (Monday, May 17), the minister said: “This is a great day for our network of marts across the country.

“Mart managers, their staff; as well buyers and sellers of livestock have shown tremendous resilience, agility and resourcefulness over the past 12 months in dealing with the challenges of Covid-19 while continuing to trade so seamlessly,” he noted.

The minister added: “I’m convinced that the efforts of farmers and marts in recent months in adhering to the Covid-19 measures has undoubtedly played a role in minimising and reducing the threat of Covid in our communities.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, cattle throughput from January 1 to March 14, 2021 was at 94% of the comparable period in 2020. Sheep throughput in the same period was at 100% of the comparable period for 2020.

Under the eased restrictions, buyers may attend the sales ring and view stock in pens. However, this must be done by prior appointment with the mart.

Buyers who wish to be present at ringside must wear face coverings and adhere to strict 2m social distancing. Marts must also prevent the congregation of members of the public in the mart car park or at entry ways into mart buildings.

Marts must operate in line with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which have been approved by regional veterinary offices.

Despite the easing of restrictions, Minister McConalogue is urging farmers to continue using the online platforms for sales.

“Livestock mart sales will continue to be a blend of both online and ringside as we move forward. This blended approach, with a strong online element, has proved to be an excellent way of trading cattle and sheep.

“I am urging farmers, buyers and marts to pay particular attention to the public health guidelines as we move forward. We all have our role to play in keeping each other safe and this is as important at the mart as anywhere else,” the minister concluded.