Welsh agricultural fairs are under threat

Cow contest

Covid has had a dramatic effect on the number of people who have been able to attend agricultural fairs

Rising costs and fewer competitors mean agricultural shows face an “incredibly busy” season, organizers have warned.

Several events have called for public support due to shortages of marquees, toilets and catering facilities.

The Royal Welsh Show, Europe’s largest agricultural event, is having to cut its schedule to save money.

Wales is thought to host more than 150 agricultural shows – large and small – each year.

Mared Rand Jones of the Association of Show and Agricultural Organizations (ASAO) called them “the heart of our communities.”

He said the shows were responsible for “showcasing the best produce we have in Wales and educating the public about where their food comes from”.

But the last few years have been “tough”, with attempts to revive events following cancellations imposed by the Covid pandemic now hampered by the state of the economy.

The season kicks off on Monday, with The Nefyn Show in Gwynedd celebrating its 125th anniversary.

Mared Rand Jones (ASAO)

Mared Rand Jones said ‘costs have gone up too – a lot’

Meanwhile, preparations are underway for the Aberystwyth and Ceredigion County Show in June.

President Emlyn Jones said there were “many things to fight against”, such as regular sponsors withdrawing their support and competitors withdrawing.

Last year saw 20% fewer entries in its competitions for sheep and cattle and 30% for horses, with Mr Jones saying ‘costs have risen and their habits have changed’ since Covid .

Aled Rhys Jones, chief executive of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and author of a report for the Welsh Government on the challenges faced by the sector during Covid, said 2023 would mark the first time some shows would return to full capacity.

He said many aspects of the infrastructure “cost significantly more” than in 2019.

“This is causing real financial pain and there is limited choice out there, not as many contractors and companies supplying the goods and services we need as in the past,” he added.

Emlyn Jones, chairman, Aberystwyth and Ceredigion County Show

Emlyn Jones warned it was a ‘use it or lose it’ situation for the future of farm shows

This is his first year in charge of organizing what is considered the pinnacle of the agricultural show season in Wales – the Royal Welsh Show, a four-day event in late July which attracts 250,000 people.

“As a charity we are very careful about how we spend our money and have had to conduct a pretty thorough analysis and review of our budgets with rising cost structures in mind,” he said.

These include areas such as hospitality, catering and the number of free tickets, while the show’s horticulture marquee has been completely abandoned.

At £45,000, showcasing fruit, vegetables, flowers and plants was ‘a cost we couldn’t afford this year, sadly’, said Jones.

Agricultural show in North Wales

Aled Rhys Jones said: “Events need people and people need events like agricultural shows”

He added that by trying to be open about the challenges facing the Royal Welsh Show, he hoped to avoid complaints about ticket prices.

“So we need to be honest I think and when people understand (the costs involved) they are more willing to go with us.

“Government support during the pandemic has been vital in keeping companies like this going, but what we need now is the support of people who see the value in coming here and the charitable benefit of what we are doing to support and promote agriculture”.

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