The Royal Agricultural Society of NSW president Robert Ryan on Friday afternoon said this year's Sydney Royal Show has been cancelled.
"It is distressing and disappointing to cancel the show," he said, adding it was to protect people's health.
"There are many people who will be very upset by this decision, and this is the first time the Sydney Royal Easter Show has been cancelled because of a public health emergency since the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919," Mr Ryan said.
RAS chief executive Brock Gilmour said the decision was a huge disappointment for the show community, particularly exhibitors and visitors from rural and regional NSW.
"The Sydney Royal Easter Show generates $250 million in economic activity each year and the decision to cancel will affect many stakeholders and businesses, including the RAS," Mr Gilmour said.
"We are in the process of implementing a number of measures to deal with priority concerns including refunding or holding over competition fees, refunding tickets purchased by the general public and unwinding contracts with hundreds of suppliers.
"This process will take weeks and we will work hard to keep our stakeholders informed as we work through the detail," he said.
"Cancelling the show will cost the RAS tens of millions of dollars, and as a not-for-profit association, we will be working with the NSW government to soften the financial hit to the RAS and to our stakeholders."
RAS general manager agriculture Murray Wilton said "we're shattered - it's probably the biggest decision we've had to make, but it comes down to the health of the public and exhibitors".
He said the decision to make the call came down to today's announcement by the Prime Minister that any event with more than 500 people should be cancelled.
"That made us decide that today was the day to do it," he said.
"We knew there was more detail to come, but we would have had to wait another two days and it wouldn't be fair to keep people waiting."
The cancellation is a big hit for the not-for-profit association.
"We have to date invested about $10 million ... so we would be hoping that the State Government would be able to assist us. The Easter Show injects about $250 million into the economy each year," Mr Wilton said.
He said the RAS had been speaking with the government on and off all week and the government had encouraged them to continue with their discussions around what was possible in terms of assistance.
Mr Wilton said for many of the staff, working at the RAS and on the show was more than a job.
"It's what we work for all year - it was our grand final. It was in reach. It was three weeks away," he said.
"We'll get out of this. We'll be okay, but for a lot of people that work here, it's not just a job. It's their life, but they understand why we've made the decision."
He said with the ongoing drought and the fires, they were looking forward to be able to take their hat off to the job that people in rural areas had done in this past year.
"It's about more than just winning a ribbon. It's about mental health. They walk out of the fierce competition in the ring and then they're best mates again.
"That's what the Easter show's about."
Exhibitor need-to-know info
Mr Wilton said the RAS has cancelled all competitions.
He said those at the RAS expected they would continue to receive inquiries about certain competitions and in time some may be able to be reviewed.
But at this point, "the message we were given was we had to go out with something that was quite clean and precise", Mr Wilton explained.
Exhibitors who wished to contact the RAS with an enquiry can call the information line (contact 9704 1000), which will be open from 8am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, and into next week.
"If you've entered a competition and you've paid entry fees, you'll be refunded," Mr Wilton said.
"Stabling fees, deposits - we'll refund all that. We wouldn't even hesitate to do that."
As for events like the Angus auction, and whether such events could still happen online, he said that would be something they may have to look at in the next few days and also was a conversation to be had with the Angus society.
Mr Wilton said over the next few weeks, the RAS would be communicating with its stakeholders and those involved in putting the show together to identify primary concerns and then implement some measures to deal with those concerns.
He said this also included things like the refunding of tickets purchased online, as well as unwinding the many contracts with stakeholders.
Young Auctioneers Competitions
The Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association chief executive officer Peter Baldwin says while Sydney Royal Show has been cancelled, the state and national ALPA Young Auctioneer Competitions will be held at later dates.
"We've deferred the NSW state competition and are going to wait and see our way through the circumstances," he said, in explaining they had to work out the future venues and dates of when they would now hold the state and national events.
The ALPA board held an emergency meeting at 5pm this afternoon where the decision was made to defer the state and national compeititions.
"You can't run an event without cattle - we need cattle and we need buyers," he said.
Mr Baldwin also said association was keen to send a clear signal to its sponsors, competitors and their families that their support was valued and they hoped to hold events in the same high esteem as people had come to expect of the Sydney Royal events, and would have details on when and where this would happen at a later date.
NSW Farmers' president James Jackson said it was a necessary and disappointing outcome of the coronavirus outbreak.
"It is the right decision," Mr Jackson said.
"Stemming the outbreak must be priority, but the Easter Show is an important event for our sector.
"It helps promote local food and fibre production and it is an important social and networking event for many farmers.
"Like many sectors, this virus will be a serious impost on agriculture."
Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall echoed Mr Jackson's comments.
"I'm absolutely devastated that the Sydney Royal Easter Show has been cancelled.
"It's truly heartbreaking for everyone involved and another bitter blow on top of a rough 12 months of drought and bushfires," Mr Marshall said.
"The Royal is the highlight of the agricultural show calendar - an opportunity for farmers, producers, livestock handlers and schools to showcase the cream of rural and regional NSW and compete against the very best with their stock and produce.
"Farmers have been doing it hard, whether it be dealing with the impacts of drought, bushfires, or in many cases both," he said.
"The show is a rare opportunity for farmers to come together, celebrate all that is great about agriculture and share what they do with the city.
"I understand the decision has been made to protect the health of the thousands of people involved, but it is still heartbreaking.
"I sympathise with the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, which has made this difficult decision," Mr Marshall said.
The Agricultural Societies Council of NSW executive will meet on Monday about how to advise country shows.
James Gilmore from Tattykeel Angus cattle and meat sheep studs at Oberon said he thought this might have been the case, given the news that was unfolding.
"We saw the writing was on the wall a week ago because they were talking about cancelling the Moto GP and other things," he said.
He said the impact for their sheep team wouldn't be huge as that preparation occurred anyway, but the cattle team preparation was a big expense that was especially done for Sydney Royal.
He said when one of their staff asked what this would mean "I said it's a bit like at work - if it was something that severe I wouldn't want you coming in and giving it to the rest of us".
"(That said) it's going to be a long time until 2021 Sydney Royal - one employee asked if they could have the budget we'd spend (for staff) at the Cattleman's Bar to use somewhere else."
Mr Gilmore said at the end of the day it's about peoples' health and that "is more important than anything we do".
For inquiries regarding the show's cancellation, contact the RAS information line, open from 8am-5pm, including on Saturday and Sunday: 9704 1000.