Ploughing contest to cultivate €40m cash bonanza
THE National Ploughing Championships is expected to give its host county a cash injection of close to €40m this week.
Close to 200,000 people are expected to attend the three-day event, which opens tomorrow in Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co Laois.
The National Ploughing Association (NPA) – which organises the event – said that visitors to the event spent almost €36.5m in 2011, according to a UCD study.
Only one in five of those who attend are local, with the rest coming from further afield throughout Ireland, most of them repeat visitors who come every year.
Visitors to Europe's biggest farm show spend around €9.5m on food, including 60,000 cups of tea and coffee each day, and another €9.6m on trade purchases, ranging from toys to tractors.
Though most visitors travel there and back in a day, thousands of visitors, exhibitors and voluntary stewards stay for the duration.
Hotels in the county appeared to be fully booked, with booking sites such as hotels.com directing visitors to neighbouring counties Kilkenny, Kildare and Carlow for accommodation.
The NPA said the event resulted in a tax take of over €6.6m for the Exchequer.
However, the NPA's own turnover fell slightly last year to just under €4m, though it is still sitting on cash reserves of almost €10m.
Its managing director, Anna May McHugh, said: "Ground conditions are excellent for both visitors and exhibitors.
"However, it is a little hard for competitors but they will adjust as needed.
"The weather outlook for the week was good and advance bookings were strong.
"Indications from across the country suggest that there will be record numbers attending this year."
President Michael D Higgins will officially open the event at noon tomorrow, while Taoiseach Enda Kenny will attend on Thursday.