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Speech by the Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny, T.D., at the Opening of the Refurbished Connacht Gold Co-op Mart at Balla, Co Mayo on Friday 23 September 2011 at 5.00pm.

 

Friday 23 September 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here this evening in Balla, to perform the official opening of the refurbished mart.

I wish to congratulate Connacht Gold and all the parties involved in the development work at this facility. The initiative, vision and hard work of many people helped to create this magnificent modern facility.

The success of the venture underlines the high standards achieved by Balla mart in meeting the requirements of farmers in County Mayo and the surrounding area.   There has been a long tradition of livestock sales in Balla and the mart has been to the forefront in livestock trading since 1972.  Connacht Gold Co-operative Society has operated the mart since 1990.   

The refurbishment undertaken at the mart by Connacht Gold involved an expenditure of €1.3 million. I am pleased that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was in a position to assist Balla Mart in this initiative by approving €0.3 million grant aid under the Department's Capital Investment Scheme for the marketing and processing of certain agricultural products, which included a category for Livestock Marts.

In developing the new facilities, emphasis was placed on animal welfare and ensuring the safety and comfort of the mart’s customers.   

The development work undertaken includes a new effluent treatment system, new intake facilities and the installation of the suspended walkways to increase safety at the mart.     

I can see that the funding has been put to good use to support the mart business in County Mayo and surrounding areas and to facilitate the export trade.   

The overall design of the facilities will be of benefit to farmers and mart staff and will facilitate ease of management of livestock in the facility. The improved car parking facilities are a bonus to farmers attending the mart.

This mart is a vital facility for farmers in the region.  The number of animals sold in Balla mart has increased substantially in recent years and is now in excess of 50,000 per annum.  In terms of volume of sales of weanlings and older cattle, it is among the top five marts in the country.

Balla is one of four marts operated by Connacht Gold in the west.  The total throughput for the four marts, Balla, Ballinrobe, Ballymote and Mohill is in excess of 100,000 cattle and 35,000 sheep per year.

The refurbishment demonstrates Connacht Gold’s commitment to providing the best possible services for the livestock sector in the region.  A similar investment upgrading facilities in Mohill mart was undertaken in recent years.

Livestock marts play a pivotal role in the livestock sector.  In playing this role, it is important that marts continue to meet the standards set down in legislation as regards health and welfare, handling facilities, hygiene facilities and compliance with animal traceability requirements.

Marts play a fundamental role in the cattle traceability system which is so vital for Ireland to maintain footholds in the best markets for our cattle and beef products both at home and abroad.   

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food’s on-line Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) system, which is in operation in livestock marts, is the electronic database that underpins the beef traceability system.   

The AIM system continues to be developed and enhanced on an ongoing basis.  It is now a very user friendly system which allows for easier access for farmers to a number of online facilities through their home computer. I would therefore urge farmers, where possible, to consider using the on-line computer facilities available to them through the agfood.ie website.   

Currently farmers that register with agfood.ie can register calf births, check their cattle herd data and obtain Compliance Certificates for farm-to-farm moves online. Furthermore, farmers can submit Single Payment applications electronically and record Animal Events under the Animal Welfare, Recording and Breeding Scheme for Suckler Herds using the online facility.

Another significant benefit for those farmers that use agfood.ie   that they can use the AIM system as their herd register and no longer have to maintain the on farm bovine herd register, known as "the blue book". Of course I have to emphasise that farmers who do not avail of the Department's online facilities are still required  to  maintain the blue book. Therefore I would urge farmers to sign up for this facility.

We are currently enjoying a good year in Agriculture. However we must not be complacent. We must grasp every available technology such as AIM that will reduce costs, enhance competitiveness and put money into farmers pockets. One of our great competitive advantages internationally is the tracability of our products .  We have the technology - lets use it to gain competitive advantage.

In conclusion, I would like to wish Aaron Forde, Chief Executive of Connacht Gold Co-op; Padraig Gibbons, Chairman; Martin Walsh, Manager of the Marts Division; Michael Murphy, mart manager, and the staff at Balla Mart continued success and prosperity in the future.

Thank you.

ENDS.

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