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Clare Beef Plan is concerned about aspects of the proposed new Protected Geographical Indication status for suckler beef. Photograph by John Kelly

mart managers hope Covid-19 restrictions will be eased

MART managers in Clare are hoping national Covid-19 guidelines will be eased to to give farmers the opportunity of buying and selling cattle in an open market.

It is understood that a decision may be taken later this week to ease restrictions on marts next week while still applying strict DOA and HSE Covid-19 guidelines.

Sixmilebridge Mart manager, Sean Ryan confirmed the mart was matching farmers who were selling and producers who wanted to buy cattle but acknowledged it was very hard work and very hard to manage.

Mr Ryan said marts were willing to work with the Department of Agriculture to facilitate a return to live auctions under strict HSE guidelines.

On March 25, about 350 cattle were sold in Sixmilebridge Mart under strict guidelines in the last sale before the national lockdown.

The mart has spent almost €2,000 on the provision of hand sanitisers and infection control.

“Farmers want to sell and buy cattle and the most appropriate place to do this is in a livestock mart where there is open bidding for cattle.

Clare Marts manager, Martin McNamara confirmed they are also providing a very limited service matching buyers and sellers, which isn’t proving to be the most successful and “there is nothing to beat the auction system”.

Different arrangements can be entered into on a price her head or per kilo with the mart processing all the necessary paperwork.

On March 24, about 1,000 cattle were sold by Clare Marts in a very good sale as it was anticipated that marts were about to close.

Mr McNamara admitted the current arrangements were not satisfactory as it was hard to determine the exact price of stock as it depends on a buyer and seller coming to an agreement without an open market.

He said there is speculation that restrictions may be lifted for some industries next week and, as marts were one of the last to close, it is hoped they will be one of the first to re-open.

“We are prepared to operate under strict guidelines along the lines of what was in place before the closure on March 24.

“Prices in factories are not good but there is demand for the last two weeks and still is for cattle for grass. It would be a big boost for farmers are marts were re-opened, which would avoid having a number of individuals calling to farms.

“We were operating under strict guidelines before we closed and we are in a position to comply with them again if marts are re-opened,” he said.

Clare Marts has made a considerable investment before the mart closed on sanitation and extra staff to comply with social distancing requirements.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) informed each licensed livestock mart on 31st March that they may put in place alternative trade facilitation mechanisms that would support the orderly sale of animals necessary to support the essential business of farming.

The DAFM stated each livestock mart wishing to engage in limited activities to facilitate the buying and selling of livestock must submit for DAFM’s approval a Standard Operating Procedure demonstrating to DAFM’s satisfaction that the individual mart will be in a position to operate in full compliance with HSE guidelines in relation to hygiene and physical distancing. DAFM’s regional offices remain in contact with marts, and with An Garda Síochána during this time, to ensure ongoing compliance with HSE guidelines.

If changes are made to the current set of restrictions in relation to Covid-19 after May 5th, which would allow marts more scope to operate, DAFM will evaluate for approval any revised SOPs submitted by marts.

Dan Danaher

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