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From the editor: Pandemic poses historic challenge to agricultural shows

In a normal year, mid-September is the time when eyes are cast towards the end of the agricultural show season.

After many months and as the year tips to autumn, halters are packed away and the sales calendar really ramps up.

 

So, while this year is seeing livestock sales shake off worries about Brexit and prices buoyed by demand, 2020 has been one of those rare occasions when agricultural shows have been unable to open their doors to the farming community and non-farming public alike.

 

Whether you are somebody who attends these events or not, there is no doubting their appeal as places for socialising and that old adage, often heard, of being a ‘shop window’, not only for stock but also the industry itself.

 

But this year’s coronavirus pandemic has laid waste to the shows calendar and, as evidenced in this week’s Farmers Guardian, threatens the future of high profile events such as the Royal Highland Show, which has embarked on a fundraising initiative to secure its existence.


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Iconic events such as the Royal Highland are vital for bridging the gap between town and country, especially that event which takes place on the edge of Edinburgh and sees the city emblazoned with the show’s branding every June.

 

For it and many other shows not to have taken place this year will have been a hammer blow for organisers and attendees. But, as the latest changes to group gatherings in England have shown this week, uncertainty over Covid-19 is only increasing.

 

There will also be a wider impact this autumn and winter as farmers’ clubs and discussion groups across the country remain on hold until such a time that people can start meeting indoors again, with young farmers’ clubs facing similar challenges.

 

While agriculture has proved to be hugely resilient in the face of the pandemic, the loss of shows and other gatherings will be a major social, as well as commercial blow in the short term. Let us just ensure that all is done to enable them to reconvene once the pandemic has subsided.

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