Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has called for the government to outline a plan for emergency support measures for farmers to cope with disruption to how the industry operates and expected price volatility that may be caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
MacManus who this month succeeded Matt Carty as MEP for the region and has been appointed a member of the EU Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, said “The closure of Marts is likely to be only the first of a number of severe challenges farmers will have to contend with as we grapple with the coronavirus.
“Marts play a vital role, particularly at this time of year. The closure of Marts will disproportionately affect family farms. Farms that do not finish cattle on a commercial scale rely heavily on the services Marts provide across the island. They rely on mart for weighing, locating buyers, and security of payment.
“However, what the government has prohibited is live auctions. There is still a significant role for mart operators to play in order to provide weighing services, locating buyers, provide security of payment, etc. I welcome the fact that so many mart operators have already shown their willingness to adapt in order to continue to support farmers.
“The farming industry can not be left to face the coming challenges alone. The government needs to outline a clear plan for how to protect the safety and livelihoods of farmers and ensure the food supply is safeguarded. Farmers should be assured of the full support of the state in order to maintain production.
“Farmers can not be left to fall between the cracks of support for workers and employers announced this week - their unique position in our economy and society needs to be recognised and accounted for.
“In a time of extreme economic uncertainty, farmers need to be assured of receiving a fair price for their produce. The government must assure farmers that they are prepared to make market interventions where necessary to protect the price of agricultural products.
“It is paramount that all available instruments at the state and EU level are mobilised to support the agriculture industry”.
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