Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) president Billy Martin has confirmed that the organisation’s Winter Fair will go head as planned in person and streamed online.

He was responding to speculation that the event might not take place at all in the wake of the worsening Covid-19 situation in Northern Ireland and globally.

He explained:

“There is talk of the Stormont Executive introducing new Covid-19 measures. But these will not kick-in until after the Winter Fair has taken place. So yes, the Winter Fair goes ahead as planned.”  

The RUAS is also confirming that an almost full house of trade exhibitors has been signed up for the Winter Fair, which takes place at Balmoral Park on the outskirts of Lisburn on Thursday, December 9, 2021.

All visitors coming to the event will be expected to show confirmation of having been doubly vaccinated for Covid-19.

Support for RUAS and Winter Fair

Billy Martin has also indicated that the RUAS has submitted a formal request to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) seeking Covid-19 compensation on the back of the society having to cancel Balmoral Show in 2020.

He said: “The paperwork made available included a full update from the RUAS on its financial situation.”

Back at Balmoral Show in September, Northern Ireland’s agriculture minister, Edwin Poots, told the media that Stormont was ready, willing and able to support the RUAS.

The rationale for this was based on the premise that Balmoral Show – Northern Ireland’s flagship farming and food event – must not be allowed to fail on the back of problems that were not of its making.

Earlier this year the Highland and Royal Welsh show received significant Covid-19-related funding from their respective regional governments.

“Given this background, I feel that it incumbent on Stormont to agree a Covid-19 support package with the RUAS, as a matter of priority,” Martin said.

“And, what’s more, all the local agricultural shows that are held across Northern Ireland during the summer months, should be included within this measure.  

“These events perform a critically important role in promoting the best of farming and food within their own catchment areas.

“They are organised by teams of volunteers and I would argue strongly that a significant number of these events may not take place again, unless some form of support package is made available to them.

“This year’s Winter Fair is taking place at a time when farmgate prices are extremely encouraging.

“I know there is extreme pressure on input costs currently. However, the Winter Fair will provide a unique opportunity for milk producers and other farmers to gauge what is happening within their sectors,” Martin concluded.