The prospect of buyers returning to mart ringsides in the near future remains slim as Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has reiterated the need for Level 5 restrictions.
In a letter to the chair of the Oireacthas committee on agriculture, Jackie Cahill, the minister said marts would continue to operate in a similar way as in the early stages of the pandemic.
Under Level 5 measures, mart sales are permitted but via online platforms only. Cahill had suggested that restaurant inspection staff be redeployed to supervise a small number of bidders in marts.
“Many marts took the business decision to invest in online sales facilities since April, and this has enabled large numbers of livestock to be bought and sold using various online platforms in the seven months since,” Minister McConalogue wrote.
“Marts which are not set up for online sales may still operate through brokering sales, weighing livestock and providing a financially secure service for livestock transactions, as was done in many marts during the first stages of COVID-19.”
The minister added that “every aspect of the situation in relation to marts” would be kept under review over the coming period.
Mart representative groups have also played down the possibility of a return to in-person sales.
Speaking on RTE’s Countrywide, ICOS livestock executive Ray Doyle said there had been serious negotiations with Minister McConalogue and his officials but no change was forthcoming.
“Unfortunately, the indications are there will be no change until the Government, the Cabinet and NPHET decide a change is required,” Doyle said.
He suggested that the recent trend of falling COVID-19 case numbers may provide a good reason to relax the measures on marts. However, he cautioned that ICOS was not holding out much hope based on its discussions with Government.