Northern Ireland's biggest agricultural show will go on organisers have said, despite coming under intense pressure from livestock exhibitors to cancel this year's event immediately.
Scheduled for May 13-16, the 152nd Balmoral Show is set to host hundreds of cattle and sheep and play host to around 120,000 visitors. While show organisers, the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS), has extended the closing date for livestock entries to Wednesday, exhibitors are getting restless and demanding a decision from them to cancel now, rather than delay the decision.
The reason is that livestock exhibitors are already preparing sheep and cattle for the show, spending much time and money on extra feeding and clipping to have their animals in good shape for showing in May.
The costs also escalate with the fees RUAS charge exhibitors to enter their stock, which can total hundreds of pounds for some who enter a number of cattle and sheep.
While a number of livestock exhibitors took to social media to highlight their frustration with the RUAS, regular exhibitor James Alexander from Randalstown said: "This coronavirus is new to us all and changing every hour, so how are Balmoral Show organisers meant to know what to do at this stage?
"I'm sure cancelling is last on everyone's list but may be necessary at some point. The lost revenue will be massive if cancelled.
"There are way bigger problems than whether I can take 10 sheep and three cattle to Balmoral. Getting my 97-year-old granny and my 43-year-old friend with a recent heart transplant and my employee with diabetes through the next 12 months without getting this virus is higher on my list."
The RUAS said: "The 2020 show is still going ahead. We are updated regularly on the latest Government advice through the Events Industry Forum.
"At present, there is no ban on any events taking place in the UK and businesses are advised to operate as normal. Plans are well advanced with livestock entries closing on Wednesday, March 18.
"As stated in our livestock regulations on page 137 of the Prize Schedule, entries will be refunded if the show is cancelled.
"With regards to the Covid-19 outbreak, we will continue to monitor developments and follow Government advice."