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‘After six generations we may have to walk away from malting barley’

We talked to three tillage farmers who joined the protest outside the Boortmalt HQ in Co Kildare to highlight the poor returns they receive for malting barley.

Art Murphy, Killabeg, Ferns, Co Wexford

“I am concerned for the future of the malt industry in this country. At the prices that we are getting, there will be no future in it. We averaged €154/t – we can’t hedge with Boortmalt as they brought in so many restrictions that we may have no grain to sell. My family were growing malt barley for six generations. They have taken all the risks in malting barley and placed it on the growers with no financial return to the grower – our spec is so high we are unable to meet it. After generations, it is hard to walk away but to survive, we have to do it. New options are growing beans, growing roasting barley for Glanbia. Because we are talking about 50,000ac less grain grown in this country, we have a lot of options now and Boortmalt is going to be the net loser.”

Joe O’Toole, Stradbally, Co Laois

“All we want is to be treated fairly. We are producing a crop and not getting what it costs to produce it. I grew a certain amount of acreage especially for the distilling and I only used 80 units of nitrogen and it still didn’t pass for distilling. It depends on your land and the weather.

“I got the brewing passed but I grew distilling and it didn’t pass. I got 120t at €154/t. Some 90pc of the growers can’t make that. I won’t be sowing malting barley unless this changes. I may opt for feed barley. In my opinion, this malting barley crop should not be tied into any other crop. If you grow the crop, they should take it.”

Colm Ryan, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford

“Boortmalt put you through a list of stipulations to produce quality crop, but then you get €10 over the price per tonne that they are paying for animal feed. How can you balance that? We all had malting contracts but two years ago, they introduced that 30pc of your contract had to be produced for distilling which has a very low protein cut-off point. Our land won’t produce the distilling crop so they cut my contract by 30pc. There are so many stipulations that you might get 70pc of the 70pc left.

“So, in fact, they have cut my contract by 50pc. They are putting that up to 40/60 next year. If you take futures you have to guarantee you’ll supply the crop. If you tie into that and your barley doesn’t pass for malt, you are obliged to supply them with malting barley. It always was a premium crop with specialised growers, but they are treating it as feed crop.

“For anything that passed it was €154/t – I got around 100t in. In my case, if things don’t change dramatically between now and the spring, I will be sowing no malting barley. I may opt for sowing winter barley for seed for Connollys.”

Source: Farm Ireland

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