Wednesday, 28 April 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
1123. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will lift the restrictions and allow farmers selling at marts to attend at the mart for the sale given that many farmers do not have access to proper broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21200/21]
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has worked closely with representatives of the marts to ensure that their operations could continue. I commend mart staff, management and their farmer customers for the resilience and co-operation that they have shown and the speed with which they have adapted to these circumstances, ultimately to keep people safe.
Under the current COVID-19 restrictions, mart sales rings are closed in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 being spread when people are present in an area together. The Department continues to monitor the situation, and to adapt measures applied to marts in line with public health guidelines. We must continue to act responsibly to limit the spread of the disease. We must adhere to the public health guidelines, therefore, marts will remain online for the time being.
Livestock marts have systems in place to conduct online auctions and are continuing to operate. Cattle throughput from 1st January to 14thMarch 2021 was at 94% of the comparable period in 2020 (310,804 versus 329,807 head). Sheep throughput in the same period was at 100% of the comparable period for 2020 (172,272 v 172,250 head).
Online sales reach a much higher number of farmers and agents than in-person sales do. Marts are reporting good clearance rates and robust prices.
On 1st March, I launched the Marts ICT Infrastructure Scheme 2021. Livestock marts can apply to my Department for a grant to a maximum of €5,000 to cover 50% of expenditure by a mart on necessary ICT infrastructure. Further information is available at gov.ie - Livestock Mart Licence Application (www.gov.ie).
I look forward to marts being able to welcome back thier customers around the ring when it is safe to do so.