While there is uncertainty around the exhibition going ahead as part of the National Ploughing Championships this year, the organisers are hopeful that the ploughing competitions may still go ahead.

Assistant managing director of the National Ploughing Association (NPA) Anna Marie McHugh told Agriland that a final decision hasn’t been made on the exhibition – “but it is uncertain”.

Decision on ploughing championship ‘can wait’

Exhibitors were informed of the update this week, and McHugh said it is a matter of reviewing the situation day by day.

The event turns 90 this year and to celebrate, is hoping to host the World Ploughing Championships, from September 15 to 18.

“We will be definitely be hoping that by September, the ploughing [competition] could go ahead. That’s not saying the world competition could go ahead – but definitely our national,” McHugh explained.

“Hopefully we’ll be further on with that this year in relation to an overall opening up of the country but we just have to play it by ear.

“But we don’t have to make a big decision – we can wait in relation to the ploughing.

“We wouldn’t even know if the ploughing could be public or not, you just wouldn’t know any of those kind of details at the moment. We’re just kind of reviewing day by day; week by week at the moment.”

‘There is light now’

The location for this year’s event is, Ratheniska, Co. Laois, was announced last September.

McHugh said that the organisers didn’t expect to be in such a similar situation with Covid-19 restrictions as last year, 12 months on.

“We have to say, there is light now with the vaccine and all that, it is positive – but just for our industry, we’re not far enough along,” McHugh continued.

“We would sincerely hope that if we can’t have the exhibition – which will be decided in the next few weeks – we’d very definitely be hoping that we’ll have the competitions at least.

“We’re lucky that we’re in big open fields for the ploughing so social distancing wouldn’t be an issue. But with the exhibition, we just couldn’t engage in the controls of social distancing, antigen testing, all those procedures – an impossibility.

“We’d be better to come back when we can as a proper event.”

Virtual events

Last year, McHugh said there was a “massive engagement” with the public through the virtual events held.

“If the ploughing is nothing else, it’s a massive social event. It doesn’t matter what the weather is – people are just in great form,” she added.

“There’s no doubt whatsoever that people still got the sense that it was still Ploughing week [last year] – that’s what we wanted to achieve.”

Before 2020, in 89 years, the National Ploughing Championships had only ever been cancelled once – in 2001, due to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.