This week marks the official launch of Balmoral Show 2023; it is the flagship event of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS).

This year’s celebration of farming and food takes place from Wednesday, May 10 to Saturday May 12, 2023.

For a body with no chief executive in place, it is interesting to note that the organisation is performing very well at the present time.

The recent 2023 annual general meeting (AGM) saw the confirmation of a surplus from ordinary activities coming in at approximately €650,000 (approx. £567,000) for the last financial year.

But, in addition to this, the society’s subsidiary companies generated a surplus of some €1.3 million (approx. £1.1 million). All of this adds up to a healthy state of affairs for the RUAS.

Not so heady times elswhere

However, the same cannot be said for the member organisations of the Northern Ireland Shows’ Association (NISA).

These are the societies that add so much to the ‘rural summer’ which so many people enjoy, year-in, year-out.

From Ballymena Show in May through to Fermanagh County Show in August, large numbers of volunteers help to put on a series of local agricultural shows that attract members of the general public in their thousands.

But there’s a problem. The pandemic stretched the financial resources of these organisations to the very limit. Many events did make a come-back in 2022, only to find life extremely difficult.

In the case of Newry Show, the decision was taken not to push ahead last year, for very understandable reasons – they didn’t have the available funds.

The good news for 2023, however, is that Newry is set to push ahead with its annual show on Saturday, June 24.

RUAS support for agricultural shows?

But let’s not kid ourselves; when it comes to the agricultural show season, we are dealing with the haves and have-nots.

The former of these two categories comprises one organisation – the RUAS.

Everyone else, if you will excuse the expression, is ‘sucking the hind tit’.

So why the difference? It would seem to me that it comes down to the fact that the RUAS owns and manages a very valuable portfolio of land and property in Belfast’s exclusive BT9 district.

Meanwhile, the other show societies have very little in the way of assets, apart from their myriad volunteers – who contribute so many hours of precious time at a ‘zero’ charge to their respective organisations.

Office bearers of the RUAS often issue statements which include details of the fact that the organisation has charitable status.

So in this vein, I would heartily propose that the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society should make a meaningful contribution to all the local show societies across Northern Ireland, as a matter of some priority. It would be to the benefit of all.