Higher costs blamed as national ploughing records €413,000 loss for 2019

By Gordon Deegan

The company behind the National Ploughing Championships last year recorded a pre-tax loss of €413,396 in spite of bumper crowds at last September’s event.

That is according to new accounts for the National Ploughing Association of Ireland (NPAI) which show that the pre-tax loss of €413,396 in the 12 months to the January 31 this year followed a pre-tax loss of €494,370 for the prior year.

The combined pre-tax loss of €907,766 for the two years came ahead of this year’s decision to cancel the 2020 event due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

Last September, 297,000 people attended the 88th National Ploughing Championships at Ballintrane, Fenagh, Co. Carlow.

The 2018 event at Tullamore was blown off course by Storm Ali forcing organisers to cancel the biggest day of the event and last year revenues rebounded increasing by 12.6% from €4.97 million to €5.6 million.

Commenting on last year’s financial performance, Anna Marie McHugh, of the National Ploughing firm, blamed high costs for last year’s loss.

McHugh stated: “We were disappointed with the income figure considering the attendance which was just short of 300,000.”

We had our best year ever – attendance phenomenal, weather phenomenal – but we still expected the loss in terms of the outgoings were not going to match the income at the rate we were charging.

She added: “We are eating into our reserves now because we haven’t had profits in a few years and that is something we have to watch. We have our reserves and that is what they are for.”

On last year’s financial performance, McHugh added: “Costs, including infrastructure costs, increased significantly, and we haven’t raised our admission prices in quite a while.”

McHugh stated that the broadband bill, for example, for the “very large site” for the NPAI and emergency services last year cost €70,000 to €80,000.

McHugh stated that the NPAI spent another €1 million on the ground panels for the event.

McHugh stated that the current €20 adult admission at the gate will increase to €25 for next year’s event with various offers available on that rate.

With the cancellation of this year’s event through Covid-19, McHugh stated: “This year our spend will be €700,000 to €800,000 on things we can’t avoid and our income will be zero.”

She stated the NPAI will also host the World Ploughing Championships next year and make the ploughing championships a four-day event for its 90th anniversary.

If we have a break-even event next year, with all of the uncertainty currently around, that would be a good outcome.

However, in spite of the loss last year, the National Ploughing firm’s balance remains strong.

At the end of January this year, the firm was sitting on accumulated profits of €12.97 million.

The firm’s cash pile increased from €1.7 million to €2.18 million and its investments totalled €10 million.

The company employs 13 including directors and staff costs increased from €557,649 to €630,063.

The government and state agencies represent a large part of the national ploughing revenues.

In response to a series of Dáil questions last year, a minister for the last government confirmed a spend €1.3 million on staff, stalls and marquees at the National Ploughing Championships last September.