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Ploughing Championship boss says no room for spectacle to get bigger

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Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney with Anna May McHugh National Ploughing Association (NPA) managing director and Anna Marie McHugh, NPA assistant managing director at a previous staging of the National Ploughing Championships.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney with Anna May McHugh National Ploughing Association (NPA) managing director and Anna Marie McHugh, NPA assistant managing director at a previous staging of the National Ploughing Championships.

Alf Harvey

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney with Anna May McHugh National Ploughing Association (NPA) managing director and Anna Marie McHugh, NPA assistant managing director at a previous staging of the National Ploughing Championships.

The head of the National Ploughing Championships has revealed there’s no room for the three day farming spectacular to get any bigger.

A record crowd of 82,000 attended the opening day yesterday, with that figure set to soar by at least another 5,000 today.

Hundreds were queuing for tickets long before the gates even opened at 8am, with traffic delays mainly on routes from the west of the country.

But despite its growth and success, managing director Anna May McHugh said she has no plans to make it even bigger.

“I have seen it grow from 25 exhibitors to up to 1,400 now, but it’s something I wouldn’t like to see getting any bigger because what we have at the moment I’d love to be able to keep and give the services and exhibitors need,” she said.

“I have noticed this year the standard of the displays in the exhibition area have increased by 100pc even since last year. But I believe if it gets any bigger that might go out the door.”

The sun shone over Stradbally in Co Laois as day two of the largest rural outdoor event in Europe got underway.

Highlights away from the ploughing fields include sheep dog trials and fashion shows, where the most appropriately dressed visitor will be awarded.

Over in the competition area the atmosphere was tense as the classes - including the farmettes and horse plough sections – got underway.

Ms May said while the variety of exhibitions, machinery and side shows attract both rural and city folk, ploughing sill always be at the heart of the event.

“The ploughing enthusiasts come just for the ploughing,” she added.

“We started off ploughing and that’s going to be the theme all the time. It will be the National Ploughing. It will always come first.”

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, who will spend the day on site with farmers, said it was arguably his favourite day of the year as it puts the national conversation on agriculture.

But he admitted he will be challenged and pushed by farmers over issues like beef and grain prices

“This is the most important sector in the Irish economy, but it has its challenges that we need to overcome,” he said.

“At the moment beef, and to a certain extent grain prices, are causing problems and we need to respond to them appropriately and we will.

Elsewhere Mr Coveney said agricultural taxation measures to be announced in next months Budget would be very progressive and respond to the modern challenges of agriculture.

He said Minister for Finance Michael Noonan had shown “a real willingness to look with an open mind at how we can support this sector into the future and I think there’ll be a lot to study and talk about and chew on, on Budget Day when they see the taxation measures”.

Online Editors