Flour power - meet the cereal growers driving a €25m flour mill project
Cereal growers Andrew and Ray Kavanagh are leading a €25m project that will deliver the first new flour mill to open in this country since the 1970s
Is there a food stuff more basic to human consumption than bread? If so it's hard to think of it, and yet Ireland as a nation imports an astonishing 80 per cent of the flour used to bake bread here each year.
That's a figure that one family of tillage farmers in Wexford is hoping to change. Andrew and Ray Kavanagh are based in Ballycarney, Enniscorthy, where their family has farmed around 500 acres on the banks of the river Slaney for many years.
The brothers grow winter wheat, winter barley, winter malting barley and spring malting barley but the newest component to their business is a plan to establish the first new flour mill to open in Ireland in nearly 50 years.
"The last one opened in the 1970s and it's difficult to say why exactly it's been so long. I'd say the main reason is that we have so much imported flour coming into the country from the UK and nobody has done the work to get the correct strain of wheat up and running here," says Andrew Kavanagh.
"A few people have looked into it and while there are mills producing bagged flour for the consumer market, there isn't really anyone doing mass flour production for bakeries."
He says the bulk of the flour used in Ireland is being brought in from the UK where specialist strains are grown and blended with French and Canadian wheat. This works because of economies of scale in place in the UK.
"The bakeries here are looking for bread flour and flour suitable for baking pizzas. You need a good grist blended from different types of wheat. This is the major challenge we face - developing the right blends and making sure our flour is 100 per cent consistent," he says.
"Technology has a huge role to play in today's milling - all the mills in the UK are bang up to date in terms of technology and can guarantee consistency. That's what the customer wants - the same product every single time so that their bread products are the same."