DESPITE the economic recession, there will be a record 1,136 trade stands at the National Ploughing Championships in Athy, Co Kildare, in two weeks, it was revealed yesterday.
The programme for the 79th showpiece rural festival on September 21-23 was launched on site by Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith.
He said it was very heartening to hear there will be a record number of trade exhibits. It was a sign of the interest of the trade and the general farming and agri-food industry.
The championships will be spread across 700 acres including 400 acres of car parks and 80 acres of exhibition space. The laying of 6,000 panels of trackway, equating to 15 kilometres, is under way.
It is estimated the ploughing championships generate in excess of €10 million to the economy of the host area.
The catering section alone will employ 1,000 people. And reports suggest some 25,000 steaks and 10,000 eggs will be served.
President Mary McAleese will be guest of honour at the opening ceremony at noon on September 21.
Gardaí will operate a special traffic management plan for the event which Taoiseach Brian Cowen and other political leaders are expected to attend.
The European Reversible Ploughing Contest will be held for the first time in Ireland this year in conjunction with the championships. Some 26 competitors from 13 countries will take part.
Ireland will be represented by John Whelan, from Wexford, who won the title in the Czech Republic last year, and fellow Wexford man Dan Donnelly, a previous runner-up.
Speaking at yesterday’s launch, Mr Smith said a vibrant agri-food sector will play a crucial role in leading the country to better economic times.
NPA managing director Anna May McHugh praised the site owners, the Fennin and Fox families, and said the association was delighted to return to Cardenton for the second year running.
“The area is one of the best tillage belts in the country. The land is vast and neighbouring farmers were very agreeable in making their lands available,” she said.
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