Deputy Richard O'Donoghue
THE "online mart chaos" follows the Rural Independent Group's flagging of a potential fiasco due to the Department’s "disjointed and incoherent approach", declared Deputy Richard O'Donoghue.
Over the weekend, seventeen livestock marts nationwide experienced a collapse of their online bidding systems, due to insufficient planning and strategy by the Minister for Agriculture for farmers selling livestock within Level-5 Covid parameters, according to the Rural Independent Group.
Speaking this Wednesday, Deputy Richard O’Donoghue said: "This weekend's havoc involving farmers and their animals being distressed after lengthy waits and delays at marts is inexcusable. Farmers with livestock endured these long wait periods, unaware if their livestock would even be sold.”
He continued: "Coupled with this mess, we know that the grave Covid-19 restrictions have already curtailed mart activity to such extents that heavily reduced prices are negatively impacting farmers' already low incomes, especially in rural Ireland."
He said that the department’s sole reliance on an online system is "unsustainable".
"We have consistently highlighted that the online platform, irrespective of its collapse this weekend, is not fit for purpose. Further exacerbating the issue, reliable broadband is inaccessible to countless citizens in rural areas; some marts fail to possess the infrastructure to facilitate online sales; and, farmers' older age profile often means lower levels of technological savviness.
"It is completely absurd to expect sellers and buyers to remain mute about such impediments. Farmers' livelihoods are dependent on such livestock sales, and buyers necessitate such purchases to ensure the continuance of their business. This
two-way transactional business has been greatly affected. Consequently, farmers are losing faith in the entire system and marts cannot recoup lost revenue during one of the year's busiest periods for both parties. Therefore, agriculture must and should be fully recognised as an essential business, crucial to our food chain supply line,” explained Deputy O’Donoghue.
The Rural Independent Group is calling on the Minister for Agriculture to immediately intervene, show leadership and support farmers by allowing marts to re-open for business, all-the- while adhering to all the necessary social distancing and public health guidelines.
"The severe restrictions have already crippled marts, illustrating the Government's complete disregard for the sector. The Minister must intervene soon; otherwise, he will be responsible for destabilising the entire sector,” concluded Deputy