A number of leading agri-food processors in NI will be noticeable absentees from the upcoming Balmoral Show.
Concerns about COVID-19 and the safety of staff have led to some firms scaling back participation at the four-day event.
It is understood that Lakeland Dairies and Glanbia have decided against any form of presence at the show which is due to run from 22 to 25 September
Other processors, such as ABP and Dale Farm, are planning to have stands which showcase information about their businesses, but staff will not be present to meet suppliers.
Food processors in particular have had ongoing issues around staff shortages due to self-isolating requirements under COVID-19 protocols.
“Given the current climate, we do not feel we could safely replicate our customary arrangement at Balmoral with face-to-face interaction between staff and our suppliers,” said one source from a local food processor.
“Autumn is peak calving time for our suppliers. We have to minimise the risk of disruption to our suppliers and on-farm service team at such a crucial time of year,” they added.
According to the organisers of Balmoral Show, the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society, up to 20,000 people can attend the event each day in keeping with social distancing protocols.
Tickets need to be purchased online in advance and proof of COVID-19 status is required for entry.
This includes proof of a second vaccine being administered at least 14 days prior to the event, a negative NHS Lateral flow test result within 48 hours of the show, or a positive PCR test within 180 days of the event.