Marts 'considering their future' over 'crippling' insurance costs, says TD

Photo Roger Jones.
Photo Roger Jones.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Many livestock marts are considering their future due rising insurance premiums, according to Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson, Pearse Doherty.

Speaking in the Dail this week he said “all is not well at the local livestock mart”.

“It is a business which finds itself coming under increasing financial pressures as a direct result of what is fast becoming the cross-sectoral problem of insurance costs,” he said.

Doherty said that in recent weeks, he has been contacted by representatives from the sector.

“They have stated in no uncertain terms that the crippling costs associated with rising mart insurance premiums over recent years are forcing mart operators to consider their own futures seriously as well as affecting the future survival of the wider institution itself.

He said marts reported to him that they are coming under heightened demands from their insurers - demands with which he says they complied with in the past and that are still there.

“Those demands are to introduce costly structural adaptations and changes to existing practice which it is claimed will help keep the cost of cover down.

“However, even though some marts have already carried out those works, they are seeing dramatic increases in their premiums.

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"For example, despite having spent over €12,000 on introducing such changes, operators of one local mart saw their premiums rise from €8,000 in 2015 to a whopping €15,000 for the period 2017 to 2018. This is an increase of nearly 100pc in 24 months.

Another mart, he said has advised that the costs of its renewal is now a staggering €30,000.

"This cost is among its biggest overheads for the year and the figure is now unsustainable. It is telling us that it is unsustainable. It has scaled back its operating times and cannot scale back any further. The next step is whether to close the mart," he said.

Doherty said this is particularly the case for smaller marts and co-operatives which operate only a limited number of days.

"Mart owners simply cannot afford to pay such inordinate insurance premiums and many fear that if the issue is not remedied shortly, it will result in their likely demise and closure.

"What they are reporting is what we know of, but those in the agriculture sector are at the mercy of a highly concentrated insurance industry which is dominated by a relatively small number of big insurance firms that can charge what they want," he said.

Doherty said he has requesting that ensure that the plight of marts are brought into the terms of reference of the insurance review and wants the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and ask it to look not only at motor insurance but at wider issues, including mart insurance.

He said the local farmer's mart is at the centre of this industry. “They are local trading hubs - institutions in their own right - where farmers and traders come to do business, to socialise and, in most instances, to continue a long and lasting family farming tradition,” he said.

However, Minister of State at the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael Darcy said he has contacted the two of the marts in the area closest to him.

"The cost for one of the largest marts in the country is approximately €12,500 and its owner said its premium had not increased.

"I anticipated the question would be about why premiums had increased.

"The owner said its premium had not increased because he had not had a claim for 12 years. That is the primary issue I see.

"When I pushed him about his knowledge of other marts, he said from what he has been told, the cost to insure a moderate-sized mart is between €20,000 to €25,000.

The Minister said however, that he would take on board the Deputy Doherty's assertion that there is probably a bigger issue where premiums for smaller marts, which operate on a smaller number of days and which have a smaller turnover, go from €8,000 to €15,000, thus experiencing a really significant jump.

"It is concerning in the extreme if they have done the work required to insure there are no claims or where they have done the work if there were issues to be resolved. I have a real problem with that," he said.

Minister Darcy said if the Deputy supplies him with the details, he would pursue the matter.

"I will also take it to the next phase of insurance analysis.

"The marts are crucial and are an essential part of rural Ireland in terms of trade. It is not just the marts because there are shops and other services attached to them. I am from rural Ireland and an agricultural background and do not want to see any further slippage in this sector," he said.

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