Balmoral Show: pictures, results and video
The sunglasses were folded away and umbrellas emerged as the skies clouded over for the second day of the Balmoral Show.
But the persistent downfalls forecast for yesterday held off, with just a few short bursts of rain in the afternoon, and the crowds continued to pour into the south Belfast site.
Among the visitors were EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel on her second visit to Northern Ireland, as well as Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Environment Minister Sammy Wilson and Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew who hosted the traditional Balmoral breakfast.
“We’ve had a lot of southern accents and a lot of Scottish accents in the grounds today,” Royal Ulster Agricultural Society chief executive Colin McDonald said.
“We’ve had the Deputy First Minister — the point about that is that he’s interested to see the broader nature of the traditional agriculture show, but with its overlay of the different activities that appeal to differing interests that come to the show.”
Part of the credit for speeding the queues through the gate went to the newly introduced Easyjet-style ticket system, Mr McDonald said.
“We had a huge number of online bookings and people printing their own tickets and getting scanned on their way in, which was quicker,” he said.
“The noticeable thing this year has been the number of children at the show. I am pleased at how successful the primary school vegetable growing competition has been.
“The children were interested in seeing what the other children were doing as much as what we are doing. It looks like the number of schools joining the competition running next year will increase.
“It has a cross-curriculum approach which covers everything from biology to marketing.
Some of the children were even selling produce to shops in their local town and used the money to buy their seeds for next year.”
The competition, organized by the Global Food Network, was won by St Kevin’s PS in Belfast.
Weightier matters were on the table at the traditional Balmoral breakfast, where farming stakeholders were addressed by Commissioner Fischer Boel and Ms Gildernew.
The commissioner updated farmers on the situation regarding Less Favoured Areas, the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013 and the trials of the dairy industry.
She said she was following the dairy market very closely but warned that farmers must move away from relying on volatile commodity markets and move into added-value products.
The commissioner said her staff would be looking into whether the disparity between farm gate prices and retail prices in the dairy and pigmeat sectors merits further investigation.
“I have been a bit surprised to see farm gate prices are not always reflected in the prices on supermarket shelves,” she said.
Mrs Fischer Boel said she may consider asking competition authorities in affected member states to look into where the money is going.
“I don’t know if its processing interests, traders or supermarket that take their share of the profit,” she said.
“The money must be somewhere. I don’t know where but I want to know.”
Welcoming the news, the Ulster Farmers’ Union said the price of milk had fallen sharply but hadn’t fallen at the retail end.
“For us, the price we’re getting is X, the retailers are getting Y from consumers and where is all the money going between X and Y?” UFU deputy president John Thompson said.