Two major rural and farming events planned for this spring have been cancelled over the coronavirus pandemic, with more expected in the coming days.
It follows the announcement by prime minister Boris Johnson that everyone should avoid mass gatherings and limit travel to essential journeys to fight the spread of the virus.
Organisers of the Grassland and Muck event have announced that the cancellation of this year’s event, which was due to take place at the Ragley Estate, near Alcester, in Warwickshire on 20 and 21 May.
The working machinery event, organised by the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE), is the leading demonstration event for farmers, focusing on grass, forage, muck and soils.
The British Pig and Poultry Event, the UK’s only dedicated pig and poultry industry event, has also been cancelled. It was due to take place on 12 and 13 May at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire.
Some 10,000 visitors attended the Pig & Poultry Fair when it was last held in 2018, with about 11,000 attending the last Grassland and Muck event in 2018.
In a message to exhibitors, organiser RASE said: “While we are sorry to have to make this announcement to cancel, it is the right decision to protect the health of the industry and indeed the wider population in these unprecedented circumstances. We will be in touch in due course to confirm future plans for both events. We thank you for your support.”
Balmoral Show postponed
In Northern Ireland, the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RAUS) has announced the postponement of the Balmoral Show until Wednesday 19 August to Saturday 22 August 2020. The event, which attracted 120,000 people in 2019, had been due to take place on 13-16 May.
An RAUS spokesman said: “We are currently in uncertain times following the recent outbreak of Covid-19, and the health of our stakeholders and visitors remains our key priority. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
The Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) has also taken the unanimous decision to suspend internal meetings, due to the coronavirus outbreak, with immediate effect. It said the health and safety of members and staff was the primary incentive behind the announcement.
“At the present time, it is not possible to say when we will be able to get back on track and reschedule meetings. Like many, we are taking it one day at a time and will monitor the situation closely,” said UFU president Ivor Ferguson.
It comes just days after NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick advised branches to cancel all meetings or gatherings until further notice.
Farmers are also taking action to limit the number of visitors.
Tom Gethin, of Brymar Holsteins, Welshpool, tweeted that only vet and feed or tanker drivers were now being allowed on farm without an appointment.
Just had a on Farm Corba Covi19 meeting, only Vet and feed/tanker drivers allowed on Farm so unless you have an appointment then please kindly stay away. Thanks over and out
— Brymar Holsteins (@milkmoneymakerr) March 16, 2020
Independent dairy and beef nutrition consultant Hefin Richards responded by saying he had suspended farm appointments. “Social distance is key to slowing down the spread and in my view farms should now limit non essential visitors.”
Cancelled or postponed food and farming events
- Mass rally for UK agriculture, organised by the NFU and planned for central London on 25 March. Now postponed until a later date.
- The Sussex Food and Drink Awards, which sees more than 300 farmers and food producers gather in Brighton, will now take place on 1 July rather than 29 April.
- British Meat Processors Association conference in London on 17 March to explore the science behind livestock-related climate change. Event cancelled.