INDIVIDUAL booths could be installed in cattle marts with access to television screens for buyers to facilitate a resumption of live cattle sales in marts, according to a local farm leader.
Difficulties with broadband caused huge anger amongst farmers throughout the country recently when on line cattle sales crashed leaving sellers without an outlet to sell their livestock.
Clare Beef Plan chairman, Joe Woulfe believes the installation of individual booths with access to television screens should be considered as this would be one way to comply with social distancing in compliance with Covid-19 guidelines.
Mr Woulfe stressed new measures were needed to safeguard a multi billion meat industry as the online system of selling and buying cattle was proving to be too problematic.
Mr Woulfe said farmers were not looking for a special exemption as food production was always categorised as an essential service since the start of the lockdown.
This is illustrated by the fact that meat factories have continued to operate during the different levels of Covid-19 restrictions.
He claimed the government was effectively adversely impacting an elderly cohort of farmers who didn’t have easy access to broadband and those who were not technologically savvy.
“Farmers are now being forced to pay and agent to buy cattle for them. What I can’t understand is a farmer can’t buy an animal inside in the mart but he can go into a butcher shop and buy meat.
“If the farmer isn’t allowed to buy an animal at the mart, how can he produce the meat? When most people were working previously they hadn’t the time to go on the internet. Now that more people are unemployed due to the introduction of Level Five restrictions they are going on line to use the platform and then it is crashing,” he said.
“The normal platform for buying and selling things is Done Deal but seeing cattle in a mart is a live image that is constantly moving that requires more data.
“Now that farmers are forced to get other people to but cattle for them they are probably closer to each other than ever before as they are gathered around one phone. If a farmer doesn’t have access to information technology, he has to go to a farmer with a smartphone and try and look at an animal on a tiny screen that is for sale.
“I don’t thing the new measures of stopping marts will curb Covid-19 at all, I think it will actually help to spread it,” he warned.
He expressed concern about the increase in social isolation following the ending of live mart sales as farmers can no longer go into the restaurant at the mart, have a hot meal and chat to their neighbours and friends.