Brexit and beef the only clouds as ploughing championships open

Sun shines on 102,500 visitors to Co Carlow event, with food and farm culture on show

 President Michael D Higgins visited the Ploughing this afternoon to officially open the event. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

President Michael D Higgins visited the Ploughing this afternoon to officially open the event. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw


The biggest farming event of the year saw some 102,500 people descend on Co Carlow on Tuesday for the first day of the annual National Ploughing Championships.

The three-day event, now in its 88th year, is taking place in Ballintrane, Fenagh, and is designed to showcase Irish food, farming and culture.

President Michael D Higgins opened the annual event, with a speech calling for “transparency, protection and a fair system” for farmers amid the discussion around beef prices.

All sectors of the food chain were represented, with artisan foods, craft beers, celebrity chefs and cookery competitions on the agenda.

Visitors admired livestock on display and learned about farm management, genetics, nutrition and healthcare, but Brexit and beef prices were the topics that dominated conversations by exhibitors and speakers.

Minette Batters, president of the NFU, the UK’s farming association, said there are “no words” to describe how “extremely severe” the impact of a no-deal Brexit will be on the farming and agriculture sector in Northern Ireland.

“In all of this, for every sector, there are no winners in a no-deal situation. We could cope with an orderly departure that recognises our food values, animal welfare, farmer protection, but we cannot support a rushed no-deal that would leave my industry absolutely in shreds,” Ms Batters said.

Minister of State Pat Breen said that there is no escaping discussions around Brexit or beef. “We can never take our eyes off Brexit because it is such an ongoing issue. We are very conscious of the plight of beef farmers,” said Mr Breen.

There were also millions of euro worth of agricultural and plant machinery on display featuring an extensive range of cutting-edge agricultural technology and equipment, with the opportunity to see these in action in the machinery demonstration area.

Despite organisers having a traffic plan in place, some commuters said the journey time they faced was almost double what was expected.

There were seven different access routes, which were colour-coded according to which part of the country you were coming from.

Bus Éireann also ran shuttle buses between Carlow train station and the event site, but some commuters waited for up to an hour for a bus due to heavy traffic at the entrance to the site.

Temperatures reached highs of 19 degrees on Tuesday as early mist and fog cleared to give a dry, bright and fairly sunny day for everyone attending the event.

The good weather is set to continue for the two remaining days at the National Ploughing Championship, with Wednesday expected to be another dry, bright and mostly sunny day. It will be warm by early afternoon, with top temperatures of between 17 and 20 degrees, Met Éireann said.

The national forecaster said it will also be warm and dry on Thursday with sunny spells but occasional cloudy periods. Temperatures could rise to 20 or 21 degrees in a few locations.