No 'jolly' this year as the 'two Bs' - Brexit and beef - to dominate Ploughing Championships

Riding into town: Orla Sheil, from Co Limerick, at the launch of the Ploughing in Fenagh, Co
Carlow. Photo: Mark Condren
Riding into town: Orla Sheil, from Co Limerick, at the launch of the Ploughing in Fenagh, Co Carlow. Photo: Mark Condren
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Seated next to the Agriculture Minister, the doyenne of rural Ireland Anna May McHugh took the opportunity to express her own concerns about the beef farmers' situation.

A beef farmer herself, she told Michael Creed the price they are getting for the product is simply not good enough.

"The beef farmer is desperate - he's desperate," she declared, though ever the diplomat, she added she believed the minister was "doing his best" and has a tough job ahead of him.

At the launch of the 88th National Ploughing Championships at Ballintrane, Fenagh, Co Carlow, work was well under way at the site ahead of the opening in two weeks' time, with the busy clatter of tents being erected.

Some 340 competitors will take part, with 1,700 exhibitors and over 300,000 visitors expected at the site over the three days from September 17-19.

Meanwhile, around 300 gardaí will be involved in traffic operations, with visitors warned to switch off their sat navs and rely on signage, with the N80 access route set be closed.

Anna May McHugh and daughter Anna Marie at Ploughing HQ. Photo: Mark Condren
Anna May McHugh and daughter Anna Marie at Ploughing HQ. Photo: Mark Condren

Gardaí will launch a special app next week ahead of the event, unveiling further details of their traffic plan.

Local landowner Sean Esmonde said he was delighted the event is coming to Fenagh - in an area known locally as 'The Fighting Cocks'.

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He and gold medallist ploughman Eamonn Tracey worked hard to convince everyone to come on board, he said, receiving great support.

"It's a great event to see a city being erected in a green field," he said.

Aishling Kelly, from Limerick, at the launch in Fenagh, Co Carlow. Photo: Mark Condren
Aishling Kelly, from Limerick, at the launch in Fenagh, Co Carlow. Photo: Mark Condren

It is clear that this year's event will be dominated by the 'two Bs' - Beef and Brexit.

And far from the 'jolly' the event usually is for Irish farmers, it will serve as a one-stop-shop for information amid troubling times for the sector.

For the first time ever, the British Embassy will operate a stand at the Ploughing, amid concerns about the impact Brexit will have on agriculture in this country.

Anna Marie McHugh, daughter of Anna May and general secretary of the World Ploughing Championships, revealed that the number of British exhibitors is also going to be up this year.

Enterprise Ireland has also expanded its presence at the Ploughing, bringing company representatives from as far away as South Africa, Saudi Arabia and New Zealand to meet and network with Irish suppliers.

Anna Marie is keeping a sharp eye on the Brexit proceedings, amid fears that it could affect their event.

Speaking at the launch, Agriculture Minister Mr Creed told guests that the beef farmers' protest will not be solved "in the High Court or on the picket line".

He urged farmers and meat factories to come back to the table and enter talks.

He said the parties need to be around the table to find a solution and he was working to try to find the conditions and environment in which that can happen.

From a beef farming family herself, Anna May was unequivocal about her concerns.

"The minister had said he is ready for talks. It's serious business at the moment," she said.

"I honestly believe as a beef farmer myself that the price we are getting is not good."

She said the cost of producing it, with the expense of the feeding, is not reflected in the price of the end product.

Just back from the World Ploughing Championships in Minnesota, USA, Anna May revealed that Ireland is to host the prestigious global competition in 2021.

And while no site has yet been selected, she said she hoped farmers will submit applications to host the event, adding the location must be easily accessible and central.

Irish Independent


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