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Marts network will collapse without State bailout, warn managers

Cattle sales at the marts down 35pc and warning that autumn trade will also be hit by restrictions

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A farmer waiting to register as a buyer at Macroom Mart, Co Cork before marts were closed. Picture Denis Boyle

A farmer waiting to register as a buyer at Macroom Mart, Co Cork before marts were closed. Picture Denis Boyle

A farmer waiting to register as a buyer at Macroom Mart, Co Cork before marts were closed. Picture Denis Boyle

Fears are growing that some marts may not reopen in June unless they receive a Government bailout.

Covid-19 restrictions have decimated cattle throughput at marts, with private sales between farmers on the rise.

Figures obtained by the Farming Independent show that cattle movements via marts have collapsed by 35pc (almost 250,000hd) this year.

In the past two weeks alone, cattle sales through the marts are down 60pc on the same period in 2019.

In a letter to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, the Mart Managers Association has warned that financial support is needed immediately to help marts re-open their doors in June.

"Spring and autumn are the times in the year when farmers do most of their purchases and selling. For the remainder of the year (approximately six to seven months) marts are loss-making. Covid-19 has interrupted two of our busy spring months," said Eimear McGuinness, the association's spokesperson.

And while the marts are due to re-open in June, there are growing fears the crucial autumn trade will be affected by restrictions.

Ray Doyle of ICOS, which represents the co-op marts, said marts will face a restriction on numbers present at sales until there is a vaccine.

"Going back to the way we were simply will not happen. The free-for-all of a mart… it could be a year or two before getting back to that," he said.

Meanwhile, some marts have hired private security firms to enforce social distancing.

The restrictions have also seen a surge in the number of marts providing online trading options, with many operators launching new platforms in recent days.

Indo Farming