Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

Future uncertain as Greencore sold

Irish growers await intentions of new French bosses

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Irish malt growers are waiting anxiously to hear what future is envisioned for them by a farmer-owned co-op in France.

After months of speculation, Greencore has announced that it is to sell its malting business to French co-operative giant Axereal for €112m.

The move will establish Axereal's malting business, Boortmalt Group, as the world's fifth largest malting operation and the third biggest in Europe.

When the sale is completed the group will have a production capacity of more than 1.1m tonnes of malt in 11 European locations and a strong presence in South and Central America, Africa and Asia.

Greencore Malt includes three malting businesses based in Britain (trading as Pauls Malt), Ireland (trading as Minch Malt) and Belgium (trading as Belgomalt), accounting for 520,000t of malt each year.

The sale, announced last Thursday, does not include 50ac of land owned by Greencore Malt, including the Minch Malt site at Athy, Co Kildare.

Based in the grain-producing Centre region of France, Axereal is a major agri co-operative group formed, in July last year, from the merger of the two French co-operative unions, Agralys and Epis-Centre.


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The co-op group buys five million tonnes of cereals each year and trades eight million tonnes.

The co-op has 13,000 farmer members, 3,500 employees and revenues of €2.8bn.

Its trading activities include grain seed supply, farm advisory, collection, marketing, European trade and processing, such as malting, flour milling, animal feeds, oilseed crushing and bioethanol production.

IFA grain chairman Noel Delaney said the farmer body was calling on Axereal, as a farmer-owned co-op, to reverse the decision by Greencore Malt to withdraw contracts from more than 400 Irish growers.

"Every farmer who had a contract last year should have the choice as to whether they want to grow malting barley for the coming season or not," Mr Delaney insisted.

"As a sign of goodwill, and its long-term commitment to Irish growers, Axereal must accommodate these affected growers."

Initial statements from the French show a positive approach towards Irish growers.

Announcing the sale, Axereal chief executive officer Dominique Bamas said the new company had a proud heritage of supporting farmers in producing cereals at all stages, from the supply of certified seed, fertiliser and inputs, production advice and logistical support.

"As, ultimately, a farmer-owned business, we look forward to supporting fellow growers in Ireland," he said.

Irish Independent