Balmoral Show will return with an enhanced presence over four days in 2021. This is the declared objective of Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) chief executive Alan Crowe.

The Balmoral Show is Northern Ireland's largest agri-food event, normally taking place in May in Balmoral Park in Lisburn.

It includes showjumping competitions; motorcycle displays; bands; shopping; tasting; a children's farm; and displays of falconry; pedigree horses; ponies; cattle; sheep; poultry; pigs and goats.

“There is a tremendous desire among the general and farming public to see the event return next year,” Crowe confirmed.

We are working with this objective fully in mind. The availability of an effective Covid-19 vaccine will be a game changer. This development opens up tremendous opportunities in terms of what we can do at Balmoral next year.

The RUAS CEO continued:

“Isolation has been a huge challenge for rural families during lockdown. This has been added to by the fact that most farming and food-related events were cancelled in 2020.

“As a consequence, I believe there is a tremendous desire across all the various strands of society in Northern Ireland and beyond to see Balmoral Show return in 2021.”

Success of previous shows

According to Alan Crowe, 128,000 people attended Balmoral Show over four days in 2019. Speaking while in attendance at the recent RUAS Premier Beef and Lamb Championships, Crowe said:

“The beef and lamb event proves that the RUAS can hold a high profile show and sale safely, in the context of the present Covid-19 restrictions.

Entries are well up on last year. But, what’s more important, is the tremendous quality of the stock entered for the various classes.

Why no 2020 Winter Fair?

“It really was touch and go,” Crowe explained.

“The RUAS staff wanted to host the event with full Covid-19 safety measures in place. But, at the end of the day, we had to take full heed of the views expressed by trade exhibitors, a number of whom had flagged-up reservations about attending in current circumstances. And I fully accept this point of view.”

The RUAS chief executive was also asked about the current state of the society’s finances. He would not confirm if 2020 had been a loss making year. He highlighted the challenge that Covid-19 continues to represent for rural communities everywhere.

Beef and Lamb

One of the busiest people on the night of the Beef and Lamb Championships was auctioneer Richard Beattie. He confirmed that 100 people had pre-registered to physically bid at the event.

“An additional 4,000 spectators are watching events on-line,” he said.

“This is the future. Approximately 75% of the bids taken at a standard commercial sale are now made by way of the internet. And this figure is likely to grow.”

Beattie disagreed with the suggestion that the current restrictions placed on the numbers actually attending cattle and sheep sales put dealers at a significant advantage.

“This is not the case at all,” he stressed.

“Almost all sales are now broadcast on-line. As a result, farmers can actually see the price that every beast makes in the ring.

“There is now total transparency in the way that dealers interact with their farmer clients. I think this is a very positive development," Beattie concluded.