The Department of Agriculture will provide funding to livestock marts for information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has confirmed.

Marts can apply to the Department for a grant of a maximum of €5,000 to cover 50% of expenditure under the Marts ICT Infrastructure Scheme 2021.

Minister McConalogue said: “Each year, nearly three million cattle and sheep are sold through livestock marts. Maintaining viable sales outlets for livestock is vital to ensuring that the agri sector and the food supply chain are fully functioning.

“I must pay tribute to marts and farmers for their swift adjustment last year to online sales that COVID-19 public health measures has made necessary.”

Long-term plan

Minister McConalogue said the longer term vision for the sector must now be considered.

“Even when the COVID-19 situation allows for a return to in-person attendance at marts, online sales will continue to be a significant feature.

“The blend of online and in-person sales and are good for competition as more people have an opportunity to bid on livestock than could attend a sale on a mart’s premises.”

The Department has said that marts must ensure that they have high-quality ICT infrastructure in place to facilitate online sales in their operations.

The closing date for receipt of applications is 15 November. Marts may only apply once for a grant.