Grain producers urged to target distillers in 'premium' push
Irish home-grown grain must be marketed in a more "aggressive" fashion with the tillage sector facing major difficulties, it has been warned.
Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle said the country's dedicated cereal 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, adding that there is scope for marketing quality Irish grain "in a much more aggressive way" than it has been in the past".
With the country's distilling industry experiencing a buoyant period, he told hundreds of farmers gathered in Kilkenny that there must be an opportunity for targeting barley at the distilling sector.
Food, Forestry and Horticulture Minister Andrew Doyle also emphasised the potential for the malting sector to service the expanding brewing and distilling industries. In addition, Prof Boyle said they were also looking at the value of using Irish oats and barley in "higher value premium" baked products to respond to the increasing emphasis on healthy and nutritional foods.
He pointed out the growing consumer interest in products free from genetically-modified crops could also create an opportunity for Irish cereal growers. Concerns for the tillage sector have been growing with "challenging" harvesting conditions in parts of the country and the annual cereal area planted down 10,000 hectares to 270,000 hectares sown in 2017.
Prof Boyle pointed out yields had been much stronger over the last season and a shortage of one million straw bales due to weather difficulties had pushed up prices, with the average tillage farm expected to earn €34,000 last year.