Over 50,000 visitors attend annual show in Tullamore
MONSOON-LIKE spells of rain did little to detract from the Ireland’s largest one-day agricultural event, as more than 50,000 visitors descended on the Tullamore Show in Co Offaly yesterday.
Outside of the National Ploughing Championships, “this is the biggest show of the summer by far,” Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney remarked.
“It is a celebration of farming, of rural life, of the intent of rural communities in terms of keeping their communities together, of building those communities through farming and food production and all the exhibitors here who rely on that one industry,” he said.
Seasoned show visitors equipped with wellies, raincoats and umbrellas seemed unperturbed by the intermittent showers as they toured the 250-acre showground.
Some sought shelter in the 23,225sq m (250,000sq ft) tented village and bar, while many were happy to peruse some of the 650 trade stands, where everything from tractors to toys was on display.
The Tullamore Show is famed as a showcase for the finest agricultural produce and this year was no exception, as entrants in over 1,000 competition classes vied for a €160,000 prize fund.
While attendance was down 15 per cent on last year, show spokesman Christy Maye said both trade-stand and competition entries had increased.
Among the vast array of tents, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin were represented in directly facing booths.
Rounding on the Minister yesterday was IFA president John Bryan who accused the Government of paying lip service to the farming community.
“This has been a terrible year weather-wise – June, July and August now, constant rain,” he said. “If the weather continues like this, we could have a harvest as bad as 1985. That was a pure disaster when a lot of tractors and trailers sank in fields, terrible yields, huge loss of income for farmers.
“When I heard the Minister saying that the Government had prioritised agriculture, we don’t see much of this as farmers on the ground,” Mr Bryan added.
He called on the Government to guarantee the current level of farm schemes in the 2013 budget and called for the immediately introduction of the AEOS 3 scheme.
Farmers, he said, “certainly cannot afford for the Government to only be paying lip service and not funding the vital farm schemes”.
Mr Bryan also rounded on the banking sector, who he said were also guilty of merely paying lip service to the farming community. “It’s reached the stage that the amount of hoops that are being put in place and all the extra regulation, it’s not functioning properly.”
Many farmers with viable businesses, now badly affected by bad weather, have cash-flow problems and, “are finding the bank managers very unhelpful instead of offering them extra funds”, he insisted.
Mr Coveney admitted “farmers have faced a summer like I can never remember”.
He said: “The last 2½ months have really put farmers under huge pressure. What we need is very good weather over the next fortnight in particular, but obviously if that doesn’t materialise, I would get very worried about the harvest.”