Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Guinness could soon be missing key ingredient as current recipe 'no longer viable' due to pricing

Malting barley growers protest over the price they receive for their product.
Malting barley growers protest over the price they receive for their product.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Farmers have warned Guinness may be made solely from imported malt in the future unless stronger prices are delivered to support the struggling tillage sector.

Over 100 cereal and malting barley growers gathered outside the gates of malting company Boortmalt headquarters in Athy, Co Kildare to highlight the poor returns received for a key ingredient in a pint of the black stuff.

Farmers whose families have been growing malting barley for up to six generations warned it was no longer viable for them to continue producing it at current prices.

Bobby Miller from the Irish Grain Growers’ (IGG) group called for a minimum of €200/t for malting barley for brewing and €220-230/t for distilling grade malting barley as it is produced to higher specifications.

Farmers gathered at the protest stated the average harvest base price they received was around €155/t as they stated they could not sign up for the higher future price as they could not guarantee delivery with the tight specifications.

“We are all proud to be tillage farmers and we want to stay tillage farmers,” said Mr Miller. However, he warned many farmers were now being forced to turn their backs on malting barley.

“The malt industry should be a good news story and it is for many but it is not reaching farmers pockets,” he said, with the average income of a tillage farmer just over €30,000.

“We are being squeezed out of business. We can’t compete with other sectors. On my way in here today I passed by two substantial farms that were dedicated tillage farms but have now gone into dairy.”

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He pledged they would take their protest to the gates of the Guinness Storehouse if they do not get more sustainable prices.

Tillage farmer Art Murphy from Ferns, Co Wexford warned Guinness would be made from imported grain in the future unless action was taken to sustain prices.

“My family have been growing it for six generations,” said Mr Murphy.

“After years it is hard to walk away but we may have to, “ he warned, adding higher prices were being achieved for other grain crops and there were options.

The growers’ group have also been critical of the IFA, calling for the current deal between Boortmalt and IFA to be “thrown out”, claiming it was “just not working”.

They stated the IFA should “step away” from negotiating on behalf of growers as the malting barley contracts were now “valueless”. The growers’ group also claim the IFA have signed up to a Memorandum of Agreement which growers have not seen or agreed to.

The IFA said malting barley growers led by their deputy president Richard Kennedy meet with Boortmalt led by Koenraad Dumont, the group chief commercial officer in based in Antwerp.

The IFA stated it had stressed there needs to be a “significant uplift” in the price of malting barley and made it clear without it there was a “real danger” that farmers would exit from malting barley growing.

A spokesman for Boortmalt said they have invested millions in upgrading the plant since acquiring the Irish Malt business in 2010 and have increased sales of Irish malt by over 40pc.

“All of which means we are purchasing more Irish malting barley than ever before and are thereby providing a sustainable outlet for quality Irish malting barley grown by over 600 Irish growers for future generations.”

It stated the “unique” pricing model put in place between Boortmalt and the IFA was “open, transparent and market leading”.

Diageo, who produce Guinness, said it has always been supportive of Irish farmers but it does not buy grain from growers but finished malt from the malting companies. It stated the price of malting barley was a matter for growers and malting companies.


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