It is believed that many of the Northern Ireland’s farming show societies are in crisis and may not be able to host an event this year.
In response, the Northern Ireland Shows Association (NISA) is calling on agriculture minister, Edwin Poots to commit to a 2022 support package for individual member organisations with immediate effect.
NISA chairman, Ann Orr said: “We met with Minister Poots and his officials three weeks ago at which time we made the case for a £20,000 support package for each individual show society.
“The money would be used to allow each association host a show in 2022.
“All of the show associations are voluntary organisations. They do not have large financial reserves. And in almost every case, any monies that might have been previously available to them has been used to pay bills that were incurred during the pandemic,” she added.
Cancelled Northern Ireland farming shows
All the local shows, held across Northern Ireland, were left with no option but to cancel their events in both 2020 and 2021, according to NISA.
“Financially, all of these organisations are on fumes. If they do not get government support now, many of them will not be able to host an event in 2022. And, if this does turn out to be the case, they will be lost forever,” Orr continued.
According to the NISA, chairman, Minister Poots said that he would get back to them within a fortnight.
“That was three weeks ago,” she stressed.
“In the meantime all of the show societies have been asked by the minister’s officials to complete a pro forma, detailing all the costs they will incur this year.
“The reality here is that all the costs incurred by show associations are rocketing upwards and the minister knows this. Meanwhile, we have yet to hear back from him.”
Cost of running shows for show societies
NISA has said that it takes between £18,000 and £40,0000 per year, just to keep shows standing still.
“Costs, such as rent and insurance, still have to be paid, even in years when shows do not take place,” Orr explained.
“All we want is some financial backing to get up and running again. We will find our legs again.”
According to the NISA chairman, thousands of voluntary stewards help to put on a great spectacle for the farming industry across 14 shows, year-in, year-out, without getting the recognition they deserve.
“And the question, which I can’t answer, now becomes – will they come back in 2022?,” Orr added.
“The minister and his team seem to be totally focused on paperwork. In reality, we deserve to be seen for the event organisers that we are.
“I doubt if any professional grouping could roll out an event in such a seamless manner as is the proven case with every agricultural show society in Northern Ireland.”
Irish Shows Association
10 of the NISA member organisations are also fully aligned to the Irish Shows Association (ISA).
ISA national secretary, Jim Harrison told Agriland that he has been working to secure financial support for all the local agricultural shows in Northern Ireland since 2018.
“This has included meetings with farm minister, Edwin Poots. I am confident that funding support for the 2022 season will be agreed in the near future,” Harrison said.
Meanwhile, the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) has also confirmed that it is in discussions with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) with regard to the 2022 show season.
A RUAS spokesperson commented: “DAERA has commenced consultations with all agri-shows in Northern Ireland in relation to providing kickstart funding for the 2022 show season.”