Ploughing trade show cancelled due to ‘lack of clarity’ on Covid restrictions

National Ploughing Association says competitions will still go ahead

 A programme of online activities including virtual content promoting exhibitors is planned for Ploughing Week this year between September 15th and 17th. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

A programme of online activities including virtual content promoting exhibitors is planned for Ploughing Week this year between September 15th and 17th. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The Ploughing Trade Exhibition and World Contest, due to take place in Co Laois this September, has been cancelled due to a lack of clarity over Covid-19 restrictions.

The event, which had 297,000 attendees in 2019, will not take place for the second year in a row.

The National Ploughing Association (NPA) said on Friday that national competitions will still go ahead.

The NPA said that given the sheer scale of the 2019 exhibition and “lack of clarity” about what Covid-19 restrictions and regulations will look like in September for outdoor events, “it was felt that cancelling the 1,700 trade exhibitor event was the only option”.

“Public health and safety is of paramount importance to the association and unless the NPA were confident the trade exhibition could go ahead without causing any risk to exhibitors,competitors and visitors it would not be feasible,” the NPA said in a statement.

“As the timeline to start site works is imminent – the NPA just could not wait any longer to make a decision.”

The managing director of the NPA, Anna McHugh, said it was “a massive disappointment” to the association to have to cancel the trade exhibition two years in a row, “in particular when you consider the estimated annual economic impact of €50 million that will be lost to the Irish economy”.

“We are very conscious of the loss of revenue for our exhibitors and the disappointment of patrons,” she said.

“However, the NPA is a strong establishment, we have a massively committed team behind the event, our exhibitors and our patrons have been very loyal over the years and we look forward to bringing the exhibition back at its full potential in 2022.

“We will run our National Ploughing Competitions this year and hopefully we can welcome some visitors, pending regulations.”

‘Back bench’

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show, Ms McHugh said rural Ireland “has been left on the back bench”.

“We’ve had so many months of trying to decide, it was swings and roundabouts all the time, of where we’re at, what can we do, unfortunately it was the lack of information really that brought us to this point, because there’s no road map whatsoever for later in the summer or early in the autumn,” she said.

“We couldn’t go ahead without knowing what might happen, or could happen. All we could say to exhibitors was that we didn’t know.

“We were getting silence - the first communication I got from Government was two phone calls from the Minister of Agriculture this week, we’ve been contacting the government since February of this year.”

When asked what the Minister for Agriculture said to her, Ms McHugh said: “Nothing.”

“He just told me that he spoke to the Taoiseach and the Chief Medical Officer and that hopefully in a number of weeks time there would be some level of further clarification. But there was still no commitment to what it would be later on,” she said.

Ms McHugh added: “I would be frustrated for everybody else in the business, the ploughing is not about the NPA getting out there and having an event and making money, we’re a national voluntary organisation and we haven’t broken even for the event for a number of years, we’re about promoting rural Ireland and I do feel today that rural Ireland were left on the back bench.

“Rural Ireland was not being talked to.”

A programme of online activities including virtual content promoting exhibitors is planned for Ploughing Week this year between September 15th and 17th.

The NPA have also confirmed that the event will return to Ratheniska, Co Laois in 2022 from September 20th to 22nd.

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