Grain growers call for more support from drinks industry
The Irish Grain Growers Association (IGGA) has called on Irish Distillers to increase its usage of Irish malting barley and to give greater support to the domestic cereals sector.
The call follows the announcement of a €10.5m investment by Irish Distillers at its Midleton plant in east Cork.
The expansion will enable Irish Distillers to increase its single-pot still Irish whiskey production capacity by over 30pc.
Irish whiskey is the fastest growing premium spirit globally, with the Irish Whiskey Association targeting a 300pc increase in sales by 2030 to 24 million cases annually.
However, cereal growers argue they are not reaping the benefits of this massive lift in sales, and point to the low prices paid for malting barley last year, and the significant usage of imported maize in the distilling process by Irish companies.
"Farmers welcome the expansion in the Irish whiskey sector but we believe that distillers could be far bigger buyers of Irish malting barley. Instead, they are using significant tonnages of imported maize as a substitute for Irish malting barley," an IGGA spokesman said.
"Growers had serious difficulties with barley rejected last year because of skinned grain, additional investment by distillers into research and developing new varieties could solve these problems," the IGGA claimed.
"Distillers want low-protein grain, but that will require growers to use less nitrogen, which obviously means lower yields. The only way we can do that is if we get a minimum price. We can't afford to take a hit on yield if we are only getting the €154-155/t we got last year," he added.