Farm Ireland

Sunday 9 December 2018

Viewing restrictions at marts 'not reasonable' and 'compo culture' at root of soaring mart insurance costs - Mart chief

Full pens at the mart. Photo Brian Farrell
Full pens at the mart. Photo Brian Farrell

Martin Ryan

New restrictions on viewing at marts could cause serious issues for farmers, the head of the one of the country's top mart groups has warned.

Golden Vale Marts Group chief executive, PJ Buckley, has claimed that the ICOS restrictions are "neither practical nor reasonable" and will create more difficulties than will be resolved.

He has called on ICOS to encourage "proper debate among all users of marts" and to challenge insurance companies on the professional fees payout on claims. Mr Buckley warned that 'compo culture' fees are the "lethal cocktail that is closing down business and enterprise in this country".

Mr Buckley said Golden Vale Marts supports the view expressed by Limerick IFA that the safety measures adopted by ICOS are "unworkable" and more input by farmers and marts is necessary.

Over the past 10 years the Golden Vale Marts Society has spent €2m upgrading marts to improve access safety levels for farmers and livestock. It is the first mart group in the country to have safety officers patrolling mart yards on sale days.

Mr Buckley said Golden Vale Marts will not support a "lockdown" on viewing of animals because it is not reasonable.

"In Kilmallock, we operate five rings starting and finishing at different times. In one ring, we would have cows starting at 10am followed by heifers at 1pm. We will be very lucky if we have all our cows in for 10am, but very busy farmers will certainly not have their heifers in for 10am, when the sale does not commence until 1pm and their animals might not be sold until 4pm.

Obviously as well, we will have some heifers coming in when some sold cows are going out. I wonder what would ICOS suggest we do in this case," he said.

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"Possibly the most dangerous time is when sales finish and there is a rush to get their animals out. Some might say employ more staff. Anybody who knows anything about marts knows that marts are not exactly the most profitable of businesses and in many cases cannot afford the extra cost.

"It is also facile to think that marts can hire extra experienced staff at the drop of a hat. Restricting access by farmers is not easy and is certainly not a fait accompli" he added.

He said that health, safety and welfare must remain of paramount importance but the cost of insurance claims must be examined for marts to remain in business."The reality is that insurance claims are a whole industry where insurance companies, solicitors, lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, engineers, you name them are gaining," he claimed.

"We have asked our insurance company for analysis of every claim paid by us as to where the money went. We cannot get this.

"If we could get this and if every company in the country could get it, put it all together, see who is benefiting from claims, it would go a long way to explaining the reason for insurance cost in Ireland," he concluded.

However, ICOS spokesman Michael Spellman told the Farming Independent last week that abandoning the restrictions is not an option for the marts. "The marts have been left with no choice because of the accidents and claims, they couldn't afford insurance if they were able to get it all," he said.

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