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The Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural (DAERA) affairs has welcomed the decision by the Northern Ireland Livestock and Auctioneers’ Association (NILAA) to open Livestock Marts on a gradual basis from 27 April 2020.

Livestock Marts closed voluntarily on the 23 March 2020 in response to Covid-19 health and safety concerns. Recently Mart operators trialled a number of successful online sales to enable livestock trading to continue and are now gradually moving towards re-opening on a phased basis from 27 April, with some restrictions in place.

In welcoming the decision, a spokesman said: “Farmers are key workers and are continuing to provide food for us all in very challenging circumstances. Part of that food supply chain is the ability to trade and sell animals.

“Staff within the Department have maintained regular contact with Livestock Mart operators over recent weeks and have been reassured that robust operational protocols, developed by the Marts in conjunction with other stakeholders, will enable them to conduct business in a manner that is safe for staff, farmers and buyers and adheres to social distancing requirements.

“DAERA therefore welcomes the decision to recommence sales of primestock, cull animals and store stock on a gradual basis from week commencing 27 April.

“Farmers, like all businesses, are facing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19. Being able to trade again at the Marts will provide much needed cash flow.”