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Thursday 19 July 2018

Meet the Irish farmer who struck oil in Tipperary

The decision to bottle and market his own rapeseed oil is beginning to reap dividends for tillage farmer Michael Corbett

Michael Corbett with wife Sinead and children Ella (4) and Tim (6).
Michael Corbett with wife Sinead and children Ella (4) and Tim (6).
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

A Tipperary tillage farmer who sows, harvests and bottles his own cold-pressed rapeseed oil says that the crop is by far his most profitable one.

Michael Corbett of Emerald Oils, New Inn, Co Tipperary undertook three years of market research before his product hit the shelves in 2015.

While he initially took the decision to enter into the rapeseed oil market in an effort to diversify his tillage farm, which consists of oats and barley, he says that the crop has become the most profitable one on his farm.

"You'd be getting a return of two tonnes per acre on rapeseed oil if you'd a good harvest and this year we had a great harvest," he says.

"We dry and sell some of the crop on and get €410/tonne return on that, so that's around €100 profit. Whereas with winter barley you'd be lucky to break even."

With an 11-month growing season, Michael explains that the crop is a "tough" one to grow as sowing time and harvest time are so close in proximity.

Michael Corbett spent three years developing his Emerald Oils rapeseed oil brand
Michael Corbett spent three years developing his Emerald Oils rapeseed oil brand

"It is a tough crop to grow and harvest time is really critical. It's harvested at the start of August and then it's sown from mid-August to September."

The majority of the oilseed rape is then dried to 8pc moisture, stored in their grain store and bottled and boxed by Michael.

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According to Teagasc, in 2017 only 6-8pc of cropped land in Ireland consists of rapeseed oil and beans. At present there are around nine producers of cold-pressed rapeseed oil in Ireland; with Teagasc pointing out that this high-value product has potential to grow even further if supported.

Michael feels however, that the market is already quite saturated in Ireland.

"It's very competitive out there at the moment. The shelves are quite saturated. It is profitable to grow and sell but it is expensive as well."

A recent winner of a Great Taste award, Emerald Oils has 50pc lower saturated fat content than olive oil and is also gluten, dairy and GM free.

"It has a great taste and is a healthier option than olive oil which I think the consumer is conscious of. It also appeals to those with food intolerances as it is free from almost everything. It's 100pc Irish too which is very important."

A third generation tillage farm, Emerald Oils is continuing the family tradition on the Corbett farm, with Michael's wife Sinead and sister Elaine involved in social media and administration of the business, not forgetting his children Tim (6) and Ella (4). Michael adds that exporting would be something he'd like to take on board for 2018 and views eastern markets such as China and Dubai as potential outlets.

"The UK is doing a lot of what we have already in Ireland as they've similar growing conditions. We'd aim to export to places like Dubai or China as they do not have a green product like ours."

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