Ploughing championships: President attends first day

Wellies a must for some 280,000 people expected at Co Laois event over coming days

Europe’s biggest outdoor festival is underway in Laois as the National ploughing champions 2015 starts. The weather looks good for the three days as organisers estimate crowds of 300,000 to come onto the 800 acre site.

 

President Michael D Higgins officially opened the National Ploughing Championships for 2015 at midday on Tuesday in Co Laois.

“The Ploughing Championships are a celebration of rural Ireland, of farming and of those who farm, and it is an enormous pleasure for us to be here again today,” he said.

President Higgins said the success of the yearly competition was a “remarkable achievement”.

“The Championships are now the largest outdoor event anywhere in Europe and with any luck and a bit of fine weather the numbers might be even higher this year,” he said.

Thousands of people from across the country arrived to the championships on Tuesday morning, causing long traffic delays around Ratheniska in Co Laois.

Almost 280,000 people are expected at the three-day event, which has 1500 exhibitors showcasing everything from farm machinery, food products, livestock and fashion.

The day started off cold but quite dry - although wellies are a must at this year’s championships, with the ground already mucky and showers predicted in the coming days.

It is the third but final year at the Ratheniska site but organiser Anna May McHugh said the new site would be still be in Leinster.

new map

Ms McHugh said the location of the new venue for 2016 would be announced on the final day of the championships on Thursday.

More than 500 people have volunteered at Europe’s largest outdoor event.

Events on day one have ranged from live robotic milking and sheep dog trials, to pony games and a vintage exhibition.

Other activities include Huaqvarna pole climbing in the forestry village, a garden project with Diarmaid Gavin and a local enterprise village with more than 75 exhibitions.

More than 350 entrants taking part over the three days.

Meanwhile, farmers have called on the Government to address low dairy prices and high rents.

With a general election on the way, farmers will be keen to express their concerns to the numerous politicians expected to attend during the week.

“Income is the major one,” said Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association president John Comer. “Since this time last year the price of meat has fallen by 35 per cent and that is playing on the minds of our members.”

He said the average price this year isn’t that bad but farmers are worried the price could collapse again before they can meet their repayment commitments to the banks.

“There’s a political deficit in terms of mitigating against this dreadful volatility that we’re all facing in our daily lives as farmers,” he said.

Mr Comer told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that farmers were concerned about the price of milk, saying the cost of producing a litre is 28 cents but farmers are only getting 26 cents on the market. He said the EU should place an intervention price of 28 cents on a litre instead of the current floor of 21 cents.

Irish Farmers Association president Eddie Downey said there was a problem with all commodities at the moment because world prices are very low. He said tillage farmers are “under severe pressure” to break even after three bad years, price wise. He also said significant increases in land rents have put farmers under strain.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said the medium term future for tillage and dairy farming is very strong as global consumption and population size increases.

He said each year tends to bring new challenges. “Last year it was beef and we had to set up a beef forum to help farmers,” he said. “This year it’s dairy.”

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