Coronavirus knocks events calendar for six

The show can't go on: COVID-19 knocks out Farm World, LambEx

Coronavirus
SHOW UNCERTAINTY: Judging at last year's Bendigo Australian Sheep & Wool Show. It's one of the events that may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

SHOW UNCERTAINTY: Judging at last year's Bendigo Australian Sheep & Wool Show. It's one of the events that may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

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LambEx the latest victim of coronavirus.

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Victoria's most significant agricultural field days, Farm World, Warragul, and Australia's premier sheep and lamb conference, LambEx, Melbourne, have been cancelled, or postponed, due to coronavirus.

LambEx, due to run in early July, will now be held next year.

Conference chair Georgina Gubbins said while it was disappointing for all involved, the decision had been made in the best interests of protecting delegates' health and the whole industry.

"Due to the current circumstances, LambEx organisers have made the decision because we have a responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of all involved," Ms Gubbins said.

"We want to ensure that when sponsors, exhibitors and delegates come to LambEx, they can book with confidence knowing that everything will proceed as scheduled and the current environment is too uncertain."

LambEx organisers were currently working with the Melbourne Showgrounds to lock-in arrangements for 2021 to secure spaces to host 1100 delegates and 10,000 square metres for exhibition and networking.

"We are viewing this as an opportunity to build on the 15 months of planning the committee has invested to date to provide the industry with an even bigger and better event than we had originally planned," Ms Gubbins said.

The committee would take the extra year to plan and ensure LambEx 2021 would deliver to delegates an engaging program that focused on developing the industry's greatest assets, its people.

Now in its 53rd year, Farm World also joined a growing list of Victorian shows and agricultural events which have been cancelled, or are under a cloud.

The Lardner Park board of management decided to cancel Farm World, after the declaration of a State of Emergency, by the Victorian government.

"Due to the evolving COVID-19 situation, the state government has announced a State of Emergency which prohibits non-essential, organised public gatherings of more than 500 people within Victoria for the next four weeks," Lardner Park chief executive Craig Debnam said.

"We regret to share that Farm World 2020, presented by Lardner Park has been cancelled.

"These are unprecedented times for us all and we thank you for your support."

The decision was made after the State of Emergency announcement.

"It won't run again until next year," marketing manager Jo Kingwill said.

Farm World is Gippsland's largest annual field day, agricultural and lifestyle event, attracting 55,000 visitors annually.

Among the early cancellations of agricultural shows have been Cohuna, Pakenham and Bunyip, with many more expected to follow.

But the organisers of the 2020 Royal Melbourne Show say it will still go ahead, at this stage.

Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria chief executive Brad Jenkins said the issue of COVID-19 was rapidly evolving.

"The RASV will continue to monitor the situation and adhere to the advice provided by the Government and relevant health organisations as it unfolds," Mr Jenkins said.

"The health and safety of everyone attending the Royal Melbourne Show is our priority and there are robust health, safety and emergency management arrangements in place for the event.

"We understand and appreciate that the cancellation of the 2020 Sydney Royal Easter Show is a huge disappointment for our Show community, particularly exhibitors, ride operators and visitors, and we would like to wish them our support during this difficult time."

State of emergency

The Victorian government has announced a state of emergency to combat coronavirus (COVID-19) and help provide the chief health officer with the powers he needs to enforce isolation requirements.

All travellers entering Australia will be isolated for 14 days and mass gatherings, of more than 500 people, have been cancelled.

The Premier, Daniel Andrews, and Health Minister Jenny Mikakos announced that the State of Emergency would begin on Monday, March 16, at midday, and remain in force for the next four weeks.

Health authorities advised this was the best way to 'flatten the curve' of COVID-19 and give the state's health system the best chance of managing the virus.

If it is deemed necessary to protect public health, the powers can also be used in future to quarantine entire suburbs, businesses or professions - rather than just individuals.

The powers also allow the Chief Health Officer to do whatever is necessary to contain the spread of the virus, to reduce the risk to the health of Victorians.

While most Victorians are voluntarily complying with requests to isolate, the expanded powers mean that people who don't adhere to a directive could receive a fine of up to $20,000.

Fines for body corporates that don't comply could be up to $100,000.

Read more: Victoria's saleyards are drawing up contingency plans for COVID-19

Regional shows

Victorian Agricultural Shows executive officer Rod Bowles said while cancellation of events was unfortunate, the organisation was following the state government's lead.

"It's good in that it's not negotiable," Mr Bowles said.

'In some ways that helped determine what will happen, with the potential for some events to go ahead, and others that wouldn't," Mr Bowles said.

Insurers had also advised they would not give cover, if events were held in contravention of the government directive.

VAS has about 103 shows and events on its books, annually.

Mr Bowles said no events would be held, due to the threat of fines for organisers who went ahead.

But Mr Bowles said it wasn't just shows, which were held in regional and rural towns, with some centres running rodeos, markets and concerts.

"For the show societies, and general revenue, the effect is going to be quite severe," Mr Bowles said.

"Show societies don't run on huge profits, anyway, so there is potential for some not to get the opportunity of gate income, to keep them going for the next 12 months."

He said he'd been informed shows may be cancelled in Queensland until May or June.

But he said show societies understood they had to play their part in trying to reduce the impact of "this dreadful virus."

Mr Bowles said there would be an economic impact on community groups, which used the shows and other events for fundraising, as well as machinery and equipment dealers.

"It's really hard to give you a ballpark figure of the impact, but it will have a huge, knock-on effect."

There was also no timeline on when show societies could start holding events again.

Read more: No coronavirus panic in ag sector where agenda is focused and rain-revived

Gippsland field days

East Gippsland field days, Bairnsdale aerodrome, due to be held in about a month's time, was also likely to be cancelled.

The field days, at the Bairnsdale aerodrome, features 350 exhibitor spaces and attracts between eight to 10,000 visitors.

The event has been run by the Lindenow Lions Club, since its inception in 1986.

East Gippsland Field Days secretary, David Patterson, said a definite decision had not yet been made.

"But it's very unlikely that it will go ahead, I would be surprised if it did," Mr Patterson said.

"It's a blow to the area," he said.

Cancellation of the field days would also have a significant impact on accommodation and spending, in the area.

Australian Sheep & Wool Show chief executive Margot Falconer said the event was going ahead, at this stage, but that could change.

"Our board meets on March 27; hopefully, we will have more information then," Mr Falconer said.

"If the authorities say we can't have a show, we won't have a show."

She said the board was mindful that breeders spent many months, preparing stock, not just for ASWS, but also for events like Sheepvention and the Royal Melbourne Show.

"You can't wait for two weeks before the show, before cancelling it, you have to do the right thing by the people who have supported it, for 140 years," Ms Falconer said.

"It may go ahead, so it's business as usual until we are told otherwise."

Sheepvention's Will Kinghorn the committee of the Hamilton event would wait another month, before making a final decision.

"It's business as usual, at the moment, but we'll need to make a decision, by the end of April," he said.

"Another month wasn't make a huge difference in what we do."

The Victorian Farmers Federation Pigs Group postponed its "African Swine Fever: Are You Ready?" event, in Bendigo.

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