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Distillers and brewers urged to intervene in malting barley contracts row

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There are fears that contracts could be cut by as much as 40%

There are fears that contracts could be cut by as much as 40%

There are fears that contracts could be cut by as much as 40%

Cereal farmers have called on Irish Distillers and Guinness Ireland to support local malting barley growers by opposing proposed cuts by Boortmalt to this year's malting barley contracts.

The Irish Grain Growers group (IGG) said Irish Distillers and Guinness Ireland, as the two biggest users of malt from Boortmalt, need to use their influence with the company to prevent a unilateral cut to growers' contracts this year.

In addition, IGG challenged Boortmalt to disclose how much imported grain the company has in stock and if this barley is being used to displace local supplies.

Last week Boortmalt contacted its malting barley growers to confirm that the tonnage of contracted grain required by the company this year "will be reduced" because of the impact of Covid-19 on drinks sales.

While Boortmalt has not specified the extent of the proposed reductions, growers fear that contracts could be cut by as much as 40pc.

IGG called on Boortmalt to openly state how much new-season Irish malting barley is being displaced by imported grain.

"Farmers will not tolerate grain being imported when they are being told their grain is not wanted," IGG said.

"This is where Guinness Ireland and Irish Distillers must step in. They must insist on Irish grain first and foremost.

"They must support their Irish suppliers or it will reflect poorly on the Irish brewing and distilling industry in these difficult times."

IGG was also critical of Boortmalt's late confirmation that this year's tonnage requirements were to be significantly reduced.

Malting barley growers said some crops were only sown days before company's announcement of proposed tonnage cuts.

"Contracts must not be cut when the crop is in the ground. All contracted grain, determined by seed supply, must be taken in 2020 or this would belittle the contracts and the relationship between farmers and Boortmalt," IGG said.

It is understood that IFA is in discussions with Boortmalt regarding the implications of the Covid-19 crisis on demand for malting barley.

Boortmalt generally processes around 120,000t of malting barley for the brewing and distilling industries at its Athy site.

However, demand for malt is expected to take a severe hit this year as a result of reduced drinks sales due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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