5 April 2002

Marts refuse to join in protest

By Philip ClarkeEurope editor

LIVESTOCK marts in the Republic of Ireland have refused to join in a trade boycott being organised by dealers and exporters next week, in protest at the continuation of the 30-day standstill rule.

Introduced a year ago in response to the countrys one case of foot-and-mouth, the rule prevents the movement of an animal for 30 days after it passes through a mart.

According to Stephen Foley, chairman of the Livestock Producers and Suppliers Association (representing dealers and exporters), this has had a devastating impact on his members activities. "Dealers buy animals to resell them. This, coupled with the complex registration process, has driven many of my members out of business.

"The crisis has long since passed and the 30-day retention rule should be lifted to enable unimpeded livestock trade to resume," he adds.

The dealers are frustrated that the 30-day rule does not apply to farm-to-farm trade. "This is growing rapidly. The situation is approaching that there will be no marts left, and that is in nobodys interest."

Mr Foley has called on market operators and farmers to back the dealers boycott. But support is faltering.

A meeting of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Societys markets committee on Wednesday (Apr 3) decided that such action would be counter-productive. "We just dont see any point in that type of exercise," said committee secretary, Maurice Colbert. "It is a wasted effort and destructive."

Instead, ICOS is aiming to set up a meeting of interested parties to present a united front to farm minister, Joe Walsh.

A spokesman for the Irish Farmers Association indicated that his members were split on the issue. "Some farmers would like to see dealers operating normally, to bring more buyers to the marts. But others have welcomed the greater degree of regulation to the trade."

The IFA has therefore drawn up a compromise, calling for two movements to be allowed within the 30 days. &#42