The Earl of Wessex flew in to the South of England Show on Thursday by helicopter. He toured the showground on the outskirts of Ardingly, continuing a tradition of royal patronage of the show.
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited in 2002 as part of her Golden Jubilee tour.
The Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal and Princess Alexandra, who has visited five times, have all been to the south’s premier show in recent times.
Pictured below – Prince Edward on the Ardingly showground.
Drought brings fears for farming
A grim picture of the damage being done by the prolonged drought in south east and eastern England has been painted by a prominent dairy farmer.
And William Goodwin, who has a 700-strong dairy herd, said consumers would only realise what was going on when they saw prices rising and empty shelves.
Speaking in the wake of the driest springtime his farm has seen in 100 years, Mr Goodwin said the lack of rain meant forage crops to feed the animals were failing.
He said: “The physical quantities of forage that are required is quite daunting in the first place; 3,500 tonnes of grass silage and 7,500 tonnes of maize silage will have to be made to satisfy their forage requirements alone.
“Currently we are estimating that we will fall short by 1,000 tonnes of grass and by as much as 3,000 tonnes of maize silage as some crops have failed altogether.”
Even if the rains come now, it will too late to save the maize crop; although some grass would be salvaged. Mr Goodwin said farmers were looking for alternatives, including importing forage from the USA.
He said rising prices and shortages would connect consumers with the reality of the problems being faced by agriculture. “It is difficult to effect change with full tummies,” he said.
Mr Goodwin, who farms close to the South of England Showground where he was speaking on Thursday, said drought conditions had appeared in other parts of the world; pointing to last year’s disastrous wheat crop in Russia caused by a lack of rain. He said there were hard choices ahead on the way we produce food.
Mr Goodwin is pictured below with Paula Laird, Director of Water Aid, a charity dedicated to prvoiding water to the world's poorest people.
She also spoke at Thursday's debate at the showground, along with Mark Smith, chief executive of the Southern Co-operative.
Lawns turning brown in May, blooms on spring flowers fading quickly are two signs of the lack of rain most people have seen this spring, writes Paul Watson.
But when it comes to growing food – on whatever scale – the drought hits home. My allotment has been arid for weeks and the effects are plain to see.
Over-wintered onions are half their usual size, broad bean plants are tiny with tiny crops resulting; germination of seeds has been poor and I hold little hope at the moment for a useful potato crop.
Before Easter I realised difficult times were ahead when driving through the Fens, a huge growing area. Vast irrigation systems were in operation in mid April; a rare occurrence. Today the BBC is reporting that a drought has officially been announced in parts of eastern England, threatening farmers' ability to irrigate.
It is perhaps too early to talk of a crisis but Mr Goodwin’s comments made on the first day of the South of England Show will not be last you hear about the effects of this drought and what it means for the future.
*The South of England Show at Ardingly, north of Haywards Heath, continues today (June 10) and tomorrow.
Help keep Uckfield Farmers' Market on top
The Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2010/2012 were launched on Thursday morning at the South of England Show.
It’s a competition where Uckfield area businesses have done well in the past, especially the town’s farmers’market, held on the first Saturday of every month on the Luxford Field car park, which retained its title in last year’s awards.
This year there are eight categories:
Sussex Food Producer of the Year
Best SussexFood/Farm Shop
Best Sussex Eating Experience
Sussex Farmer of the Year
Sussex Drink Producer of the Year
Sussex Butcher of the Year Sussex
Young Chef of the Year
Best Sussex Farmers’ Market.
Voting has already begun. Go to the competition website by clicking here.
Closing date, October 2.