Marts will continue to operate, in line with Government guidelines, as long as they can successfully comply with social distancing rules and the maximum 100 person limit on attendees, ICOS has stated following consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and The Marine.
ICOS Livestock and Environment Executive Ray Doyle said, "As noted by An Taoiseach in his address last night, it is clear this situation will last for many months, and well beyond the current period to 29th March. As this will be the new operating reality for marts, we must strictly enforce methods of operating within the safety parameters laid down by the Government or marts will need to close.
"But, this will be an individual decision for mart boards in the best interests of the country first, shareholders, customers, employees and all extended families involved."
"Continuing to trade is a real challenge for marts and no one wants the responsibility of creating an environment which may lead to someone being infected. Farming families need marts to enable them to earn a living and supply much needed cash, but not to jeopardise anyone else in the process. This will be difficult and will result in significant long term changes to the way we are conducting our business."
ICOS also said it is asking the Department to implement immediate practical measures to ease the capability of marts to comply with the Government's COVID-19 measures.
"If marts can spread out their usual peak spring sales it will greatly assist with ensuring compliance. This means reducing the retention period for Area of Natural Constraint Payments from 7 to 5 months. This measure would allow farmers a longer timeframe to purchase the animals needed to comply with the stocking density requirements of the scheme, greatly assist their economic viability and avoiding the compression of sales into a short timeframe in the marts. Basic payment schemes and ANCs will never be more critical for farmers to comply with in order to secure these payments and DAFM should prioritise this change immediately as a practical measure for marts and farmers."
"We further re-iterate that only buyers and sellers of livestock will be permitted to attend the marts and controls are in place regarding numbers attending. At this time, social visitors and particularly children or vulnerable people must stay away from the marts until further notice is given. Everyone needs to co-operate with any and all instructions given in mart centres as we all need the marts to continue trading during this busy spring period, but in a safe way and one which will not add to the spread of COVID-19."