An online system needs to be established to provide an alternative sales avenue for farmers following the closure of marts, Sinn Féin spokesperson for agriculture Brian Stanley has said.
Under Government restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19, marts must remain closed until at least 19 April.
Stanley has criticised the way marts were closed without notice and without an alternative being put in place.
“It is remarkable that the Minister would have known about this coming down the line and now today he is scrambling about trying to arrange a new system,” Stanley said.
While marts are closed, factories remain open and farm-to-farm sales are still permitted.
Stanley said: "We need to move urgently to provide an alternative system through which farmers can sell livestock and that system must provide transparency and security of payment.”
Mart representative bodies, the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) and Associated Livestock Marts (ALM), have stated they are willing to match buyers with sellers to facilitate the continued functioning of the livestock sector and guarantee payment for farmers.
"Marts have the contacts, infrastructure and equipment – in terms of weighing scales, etc – and payment systems in place and these should utilised during the suspension of marts to ensure the safe trading of livestock,” Stanley said.
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said he was hopeful greater clarity on what role marts could play will be available by the end of the week.
On the possibility of an online service, Stanley said he had been in contact with the Emerald Isle beef producer organisation, set up by Eamon Corley a founder of the Beef Plan Movement. Stanley said the group is in the process of establishing an online service for selling livestock.
He called on the Department to engage with the group on the potential service.