Sellers will join buyers in their return to mart rings from 17 May.

“The Department has told us it’s going to be the exact same standard operating procedure (SOP) as we had before, with mandatory mask-wearing and two-metre social distancing,” Irish Co-Operative Organisation Society (ICOS) marts executive Ray Doyle told the Irish Farmers Journal.

“This is good news and a positive restart to ringside trading. We are looking forward to later in the summer when all restrictions are eased.

“From 17 May, canteens will be open, but will operate on a takeaway basis only.”

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue confirmed on Friday that farmer buyers will be able to get back to mart rings from that date, while adhering to public guidelines.

Online trading will still be operational in tandem with ringside buying.

A number of rules will apply:

  • Buyers will need to view stock prior to sale by booking an appointment at their mart.
  • Buyers who wish to be present at the ring must wear a mask.
  • Buyers must maintain 2m social distancing.
  • Marts must ensure that farmers do not congregate in the mart carpark or within the mart.
  • Challenging times

    “The return of in-ring buying will continue to be augmented by the facilitation of online sales, which have worked exceptionally well during this challenging time for all of us,” the Minister said.

    “The move to online-only platforms in October has proven to be an excellent way of trading cattle and sheep, with strong throughput, coupled with steady prices over this time.

    "In fact, online sales have been proven to reach a much higher number of farmers and agents than the traditional in-person sales.”

    Northern Ireland

    The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland announced that marts would gradually reopen to farmers selling their stock in marts from Monday 3 May.

    "The arrangements that livestock markets have already introduced to allow the online viewing and participation in sales by buyers and sellers will remain in place and farmers are encouraged to continue to make use of this technology," DAERA said.

    "Key safety measures relating to the use of marshalling, face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing, that everyone is now well used to adhering to, will remain in place.

    "Auctioneers and mart staff will continue to monitor and make regular announcements to provide advice to those in attendance. For everyone’s safety, it is essential that this advice is followed."