The €5,000 mart grants should be used by marts to “cover technology upgrades to further strengthen online trading capability” and any associated costs, livestock and environmental services executive of ICOS Ray Doyle has said.

ICOS had asked the Department for grant aid to recognise the financial cost of upgrading facilities to allow online trading at marts.

“This follows long and varied discussions that we have had with Minister McConalogue and the Department where we made the case for assistance to be provided.

“We are grateful to Minister McConalogue for bringing forward this scheme which recognises the valuable role of marts as centres of competitive trade in livestock for farmers and rural communities across Ireland,” Doyle said.

He said that online mart sales systems have been in operation in Ireland since early April and hundreds of thousands of cattle and sheep have been bought and sold successfully using the various online platforms.

Internet trading

“Internet-based trading is now an integral part of the mart business, with many benefits for farmers, including convenience in normal times and enhanced health and safety during the current pandemic.

“A blend of online and in-person bidding is the fairest and best auction process for livestock.

"It enhances access and interest in the sales process, which is good for overall competition, yielding fair market value for buyers and sellers, which has always been a benefit of trading through the marts,” Doyle said.

He added that ICOS will welcome the alleviation of Level 5 restrictions, while continuing to stay vigilant and observing all necessary protocols at marts.

Associated Livestock Marts

Associated Livestock Marts (ALM) welcomed the grant funding, adding that there have been extreme costs outlaid on the mart industry since COVID-19 affected the way marts could provide the service for farmers.

“Marts have to be praised for their resilience and ability to adapt and credit must go to mart managers and their staff who have worked around the clock helping farmers understand the online platforms and building confidence in what was a very new style of selling commercial stock.

“The most recent Level 5 lockdown has certainly been hard to deliver within the industry but we have done it in a very creditable fashion. The mart gate has remained open, the ring has functioned and the camera has kept rolling and the trade has without doubt improved in recent weeks in both the sheep and cattle ring,” a spokesperson for ALM said.

ALM added that the Minister must now work closely with mart representatives in the days and weeks ahead to ensure this grant is attainable in a very practical fashion.