Possible Ekka cancellation could hurt local producers
The coronavirus pandemic has seen dozens of local events and festivals cancelled, dealing a huge blow to Southern Downs’ producers – but new talks of cancelling the Ekka could prove the most lethal setback yet.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has now confirmed the Department of Health is considering sites like the RNA Showgrounds, along with vacant hotels and possibly even mining camps, as options for temporary hospitals for coronavirus treatment, casting significant doubt on whether the Royal Queensland Show will go ahead.
David Bondfield, CEO of Palgrove and one of the Southern Downs’ most prominent beef producers, said as someone who had spent many years breeding and exhibiting prize-winning cattle at the Ekka, he understood how devastating the Show’s cancellation would be to other local producers.
“While’s it’s obviously essential that shows have ceased during the coronavirus pandemic, the biggest impact would be the loss of social interaction as much as it is the ability for people to exhibit their livestock,” Mr Bondfield said.
“In local shows, it’s extremely important that country and city communities have a chance to connect, and obviously get some income to regional areas. It’s important to showcase what people are doing and how proud they are of what they do – not just in livestock, but in every facet of country shows.”
Mr Bondfield said some external events run in conjunction with the Ekka would still be going ahead, but many others featuring beef producers from Warwick and the Southern Downs had already been shut down.
“This year would have seen a world congress for the Charolais cattle breed running alongside the Show, but issues around travel and whether the Ekka would be held means that congress has now been cancelled,” Mr Bondfield said.
“Obviously trying to run an international event at a time like this, it was logical that it had to be cancelled, but that doesn’t make it less disappointing for those breeders from Warwick who were on the schedule.”
In a statement to The Courier Mail, the RNA’s chief executive Brendan Christou has said organisers will make a decision on whether the Ekka will proceed by mid-June, warning it will look very different should it go ahead.
“We’re very aware that it is very unlikely the Ekka will progress in its normal format this year,” Mr Christou said.
Mr Bondfield said even though the Royal Queensland Show’s being cancelled will be difficult for Southern Downs producers, he believed the majority will already be prepared for the worst and ready to get on with the job.
“The Brisbane RNA haven’t announced a decision either way on the Exhibition proceeding, but I think a lot of the exhibitors, producers, and the public would be thinking that August isn’t enough time,” he said.
“As hard as it is, the more people we have doing the right thing, the sooner we’ll be able to get on top of this pandemic and start getting things back to normal.”