By Debbie James

Pembrokeshire is counting the economic and social cost of the cancellation of all agricultural shows and other rural events this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As a rural county, Pembrokeshire has one of the highest concentrations of agricultural shows of any Welsh county.

The Pembrokeshire County Show is its biggest earner, generating substantial revenue for local businesses by pulling in tens of thousands of attendees.

But the smaller shows at Pembroke, Fishguard, Nevern and Martletwy, and over the border in Cardigan and St Clears, provide a considerable economic boost to an area made up mostly of smaller, independent businesses and traders.

With the government's guidance on mass gatherings and social distancing, show organisers have had no choice but to abandon these events.

Clare Morgan’s family has a long history with the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society – her sons and nieces are the fourth generation of her family to be involved in stewarding at the County Show.

This is true of many other families, she says, pointing out that the social cost of a summer without shows could be as great to the farming community as the economic repercussions.

Some of the business conducted at the show will still go ahead, Clare suggests, but the loss of opportunities for people to gather will be felt deeply.

“Agricultural shows are great social occasions which are vitally important as farming is often very isolated,’’ says Clare, the county chair of NFU Cymru in Pembrokeshire.

“We no longer have the on-farm sales and there are far fewer livestock marts due to direct selling to abattoirs so those social occasions are less too.’’

Shows allow businesses the opportunity to offer hospitality to farmers.

In her role with the NFU, Clare says no shows will mean opportunities lost to meet members and to welcome politicians and civil servants.

“Shows provide a more relaxed environment to continue our lobbying activity,’’ she says.

The Royal Welsh Show is also an important place to meet and to do business and contributes more than £40m a year to the Welsh economy.

It was set to be held from the July 20 in Llanelwedd but will instead take place next year.

Its chief executive Steve Hughson says he recognises the "terrible effect" the virus is having on local businesses.

"What is really important is that we must look ahead now to next year, and come out of this stronger," he says.