Irish grain must be marketed in a more 'aggressive' fashion

Stock Picture.
Stock Picture.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Irish home-grown grain must be marketed in a more “aggressive” fashion than in the past with the tillage sector facing major difficulties, it has been warned.

Teagasc Director Professor Gerry Boyle said the country’s dedicated cereal and tillage producers have remained resilient in the face of a fall-off in income in recent years.

Prof Boyle told the Teagasc National Tillage Conference he was “very conscious of the need to add value to Irish grain and make it a premium product” that would secure a higher price.

There is a case for “marketing quality Irish grain in a much more aggressive way than it has been in the past,” he added.

With the country’s buoyant distilling industry, he told hundreds of farmers gathered in Kilkenny that there must be an opportunity for targeting Irish barley at the distilling sector.

Prof Boyle said they were also looking at the value of Irish oats and barley in “higher value premium” baked products to respond to the rapidly changing market with an increasing emphasis on healthy and nutritional foods.

Teagasc researcher Eimear Gallagher said Irish cereals have not been marketed well so far for inclusion in bakery products. She highlighted how research has shown how new healthy cereal-based ingredients and food products may be developed using Irish-grown oats and barley

Prof Boyle also pointed out the growing consumer interest in products free from genetically-modified crops that could also create an opportunity for Irish cereal growers.

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Minister of State Andrew Doyle also emphasised the potential for Irish barley for the malting sector to service the expanding brewing and distilling industries..

Acknowledging the “challenging circumstances” facing the tillage sector from Brexit, curtailing of plant protection products and weather difficulties, Mr Doyle pointed out producers were also operating in the global situation where another consecutive year of high grain supplies has outstripped demand which hits grain prices.

With the annual cereal area falling by 10,000ha last year to 270,000ha, Mr Doyle stressed maintenance of an Irish tillage sector was a “very important cog” in the whole agri-food industry.

Protein subsidy

With strong interest from grain growers in the protein subsidy, Mr Doyle said he was aware it was “keenly availed of” and confirmed it will continue in some form in 2018. He said details would be finalised in the next couple of weeks and included in the basic payment scheme documents that will issue shortly.

After several years of poor incomes, Prof Boyle pointed out the Teagasc eprofit monitor showed that incomes had picked up last year but “tillage has fallen significantly behind the dairy sector and traditionally it used to be right up there”.

He said yields had been much stronger over the last season, however, growers had faced severe harvest conditions in parts of the west and north.

The difficulties in baling straw meant there was a positive lift in prices for the straw that was gathered.

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