The Department of Agriculture will provide funding to livestock marts for information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure.

Marts can apply to the Department of Agriculture for a grant of a maximum of €5,000 to cover 50% of expenditure under the Marts ICT infrastructure scheme 2021.

Marts have already invested in online bidding systems in 2020 and items already purchased in 2020 are not eligible for grant aid under the new scheme.

Minister McConalogue said: “The blend of online and in person sales is good for competition as more people have an opportunity to bid on livestock than could attend a sale on a mart’s premises.”

The scheme has been broadly welcomed by the marts umbrella bodies, ICOS, Associated Livestock Marts and Mart managers of Ireland, however concerns still remain.

Commenting on the marts grant, Ray Doyle, ICOS, said: “Marts have invested several million euro during 2020 in order to facilitate trading during the Covid restrictions and the scope of the grant aid must be very broad to allow marts to avail of the full amount available.”

Wireless connection

In a separate development, the Department of Communications has been in contact with 23 marts whose location currently in an area where commercial operators have no interest in providing a high speed fibre service.

The Department is currently investigating whether a wireless connection could be installed as an interim measure for these marts.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, Donegal Mart manager Eimear McGuinness said: “It’s very disappointing that the money we have already spent installing online systems in 2020 isn’t eligible for grant aid. Marts had a very tough 2020 and now the minister is asking us to put our hands in our pockets again and spend money that we don’t have.”