Queensland’s Royal Show Ekka has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving small business vendors and exhibitors bearing the cost of wasted preparations and a lack of sales.
The cancellation of Ekka, which was scheduled this weekend at the Brisbane Showgrounds, comes as a blow to the agriculture sector, as well as stall holders, from showbag businesses, to food stalls and rides and entertainment.
Amanda Rohan, policy and advocacy general manager at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland, says regional Queensland businesses will be hit hard by the cancellation.
“Many of those businesses have been planning, investing and upskilling or diversifying in preparation for the Ekka — resources they’ll now have to re-deploy at risk of going to waste,” Rohan tells SmartCompany.
Rohan says Ekka is an opportunity for regional businesses to gain exposure to a wider audience, and its cancellation again this year will affect those small and medium businesses.
The show is the biggest annual event in Brisbane, attracting 400,000 visitors in recent years, according to the ABC.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland is calling on the Queensland government for a long-term recovery plan for businesses that have been forced to close in lockdowns or have felt flow-on effects of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Businesses need to be afforded long-term confidence to ensure they’re able to plan and invest to get back to business as soon as possible,” Rohan says.
On Wednesday, the Queensland government announced COVID-19 cash grants of $5,000 for businesses affected by the eight-day lockdown in south east Queensland. To be eligible, businesses don’t have to be located in the locked down areas but they must have experienced at least a 30% reduction in turnover.
Michael Guerin, chief executive of AgForce, says the Ekka cancellation will come at a cost to producers that already brought animals and supplies into town, as well as affecting promotional activities.
Guerin, who leads the state’s peak body for regional producers, says Ekka is a way the industry attracts future talent because an increasing number of workers come from urban areas.
“The specific cost to us is not just the cost of carting animals into town, it’s the cost of lost opportunities for producers to represent themselves to the broader industry,” Guerin tells SmartCompany.
“Ekka is a chance for us to show the different careers available to young people,” he says.
“Over 80% of young people brought up in a big city like Brisbane have no idea where their food comes from so this is a once-in-a-year chance to present agriculture as a career.”