Agricultural Shows Australia is calling on the federal government to help ease the burden of financial and social impacts on shows caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
After the cancellation of four royal shows and hundreds of country shows across Australia, the $1 billion contribution to the national economy has all but dried up overnight, according to ASA.
The national body are asking for a support package to ensure the survival of events beyond COVID-19.
ASA's proposed recovery package comprises three components; up to $30 million for capital city royal shows, up to $12.175m for state affiliated agricultural societies and $500,000 in operational support for ASA over two years.
There are 580 local, regional or state shows held in Australia each year which are not-for-profit organisations and help support the development and promotion of primary industries across the country.
ASA chair Rob Wilson said agricultural shows had been an integral part of rural communities for more than a century, with some agricultural societies approaching their 200th year.
"ASA welcomed last week's funding announcement from federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud as part of the Regional Agricultural Show Development Grants program, with those grants awarded to successful applicants for infrastructure projects," Dr Wilson said.
But, ASA was now calling for support to cover ongoing fixed costs, such as utilities and insurance, for all its members.
"Agricultural shows have never relied on government support and have never been a drain on community resources, but have been a net contributor to local community prosperity and goodwill," Dr Wilson said.
"With shows cancelled due to the pandemic, there is no revenue for show societies and no possibility of revenue for the foreseeable future.
"The impact on the shows industry will be catastrophic as these groups are likely to use what financial reserves they may have to survive the short-term, if at all."
Dr Wilson said cancellation of the capital city royal shows will have significant repercussions for all regional and country shows due to the connectedness of exhibitors, competitors and show ride operators, as well as the huge network of suppliers, stallholders and entertainers which rely on these shows for their livelihoods.
"Operational support for ASA will enable us to continue to represent and support agricultural shows and their youth competitions until financial stability returns to their membership base," he said."
Dr Wilson also said the cancellation of other events which utilised existing show infrastructure - including concerts, exhibitions, corporate events and functions - dealt a further blow to the finances of agricultural societies.
"It is clear from the forecasts that all agricultural societies and their respective membership affiliations will encounter severe economic pressures and this impact will extend into 2021," he said.
"Without financial assistance, some of these agricultural societies face the very real proposition of not being able to host a show in 2021 and beyond."
The Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of SA are backing the campaign by ASA for the federal government to provide a support package to ensure agricultural events survive beyond 2020.
RAHS SA chief executive officer John Rothwell said show societies across the state would be left reeling and in danger of extinction from cancellations caused by COVID-19, without adequate financial support.
"In many cases, they've already incurred costs in preparation for this year's show and all of a sudden it's cancelled," he said.
"It puts show societies under financial stress. They've got to find money to cover off this year's expenses and also be able to prepare and stage for next year.
"Each of them would be in a different financial position, but for some it's a 50/50 prospect of whether they can continue."
Mr Rothwell said the RAHS stood to be $6 million worse off due to the cancellation of the 2020 Royal Adelaide show.
"Even assuming we can hold a show in 2021, it will just be a break even or loss proposition," he said.
"Our financial position over the next two years will deteriorate quite dramatically so we need to work very hard to continue.
"It was felt by all shows in Australia, represented by ASA, that we should approach the federal government for some funding relief."
RELATED READING: Virus proves show stopper for long-time exhibitors
- Start the day with all the big news in agriculture. Click here to sign up to receive our daily Stock Journal newsletter.