Farmers warned ‘HSENI could close marts at any time’

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has warned farmers that the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) could order the closure of marts at any stage should visitors fail to follow Covid-19 measures, such as wearing facemasks.

Clusters across Northern Ireland have resulted in the closure of several businesses and sports facilities.

AgriLand understands that so far, four formal complaints have been made to the HSENI about the social distancing in the region’s marts.

Two complaints referenced the same business, meaning three separate premises are affected. One issue has been resolved while the two more recent cases are still under discussion.

‘No room for error’

UFU president Victor Chestnutt explained that as a result, it is critical that everyone obeys market protocols to keep themselves safe, and so live selling and buying can continue.

“Marts are a vital route for farmers to sell stock and trade has been doing well recently,” he said. “Prices are reasonable and the reopening of marts across the country has had a big impact.

“Farmers are receiving a good return for their stock and we want this to continue, but farmers attending the mart need to be sensible and ensure they are following the Covid-19 protocols at all times.

There is no room for error at this stage of the pandemic as we have seen how easily a cluster can happen and the consequences of it with the immediate closing of facilities.

“Marts are providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their staff who are working in close proximity with farmers who have travelled from various local areas.

“To help protect the market staff who have returned to work to keep things in the farming industry moving and farmers, extra caution and a common sense approach needs to be taken.

Sellers at the mart should make their way home as soon as their livestock are sold to help prevent large crowds forming, as should those who have purchased stock. As well as this, everyone needs to continue social distancing and washing their hands.

“The last thing any of us wants is the closure of marts again, this would be a disaster and would be a huge step back for the farming industry.

“We have all been adjusting to this new normal during the pandemic as best as we can and we need to keep things progressing. We all look forward to the day when marts can be a social gathering place again.”

Also Read: Facemasks and temperature checks listed in new Covid protocols for NI marts

What Are The Latest Guidelines For Marts?

One-way systems will remain in place and buyers over 70 are still barred, but attendees will now also have to wear facemasks and have their temperature checked on entry.

All areas open to the public must be cleaned before and after each sale with special attention paid to gates, door handles, keypads and any other high-touch areas.

The businesses are also required to keep a log of everyone attending the sale for at least 21 days to assist contact tracing in the event someone later tests positive for Covid-19.

All sales are now permitted except those which would normally create large gatherings that could potentially breach social distancing guidelines.

Marts are also asked to consider restructuring sales or holding sales of different categories of stock on different days to reduce crowd sizes.

Livestock shows linked with sales are still not permitted to take place. Facemasks will be available to buy on the premises, or alternatively, farmers can bring their own.