Mart sales have seen a drop off in entries in recent weeks, a trend which, if it continues, will make mart closures inevitable, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) beef chair Edmund Graham said.

The ICSA has called for the resumption of live bidding with social distancing safeguards in place at marts.

“The reality is that marts are an essential business and are an integral part of the food supply chain. Meat factories continue to operate as do supermarkets. The supply of beef to the supermarket shelf begins with farmers and they need a fully functioning livestock mart system.”

Pessimistic outlook

The ICSA has said the current system is untenable and called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to align marts with other essential food production operations.

Graham continued: “We have seen large scale COVID-19 outbreaks in meat factories, yet marts are being punished. With a disastrous collapse in an online platform a couple of weeks ago, there are ongoing problems with broadband every week.

“It might be put up with if we had a guarantee that the current restrictions are only for six weeks. Soundings from NPHET are very pessimistic if we do not deal with this issue now, it will be an ongoing disaster for most of 2021.”

Key decision

The ICSA has warned that current Level 5 COVID-19 restrictions have impacted the sale of pedigree bulls and while some bulls have been sold, many have been withdrawn before sale or due to lack of bidding.

Graham said: “This reflects the reality that looking at a twenty second video is not good enough for a key decision about a breeding animal that will impact herd profitability for years to come.”

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