Irish whiskey is the fastest growing premium spirit globally. There are currently 16 distilleries in operation around the country, although some have yet to release products onto the market.
This really is a successful sector and fast becoming an important part of the Irish economy.
The Irish Whiskey Association have said they are targeting a 300% increase in sales by the year 2030, which would equate €24 million annually.
This begs the question, if the sector is doing so well and increasing sales at such a high volume then why are Irish cereal growers not benefitting?
Low prices received by Ireland’s cereal growers last year has left farmers with real worries for the future. We brought you the story a few weeks ago of the IFA confirming that levies will not be paid back to Ireland’s malting barley farmers.
This compulsory levy was included upon the signing of a two-year deal between Boortmalt and the IFA, but now this lack of repayment by the IFA means cereal farmers are again out of pocket.
It currently stands at 39cent per tonne and farmers have no choice but to allow the company to collect levies on behalf of the IFA.
This capped off a particularly difficult year for cereal growers after last year’s low yields and the increase in imported maize being used has really affected prices received. In Fact it has left cereal growers with high levels of uncertainty for the coming year.
Prices last year averaged at €154 per tonne. The problem though remains that Boortmalt are actively seeking low protein grain which means less nitrogen was used during growing.
If Irish farmers were to do this to compete it would result in an increase in loss of profits received, even on last year’s low numbers. In fact grain and straw losses for last year reached a high €4million.
The Irish Grain group have said on the matter that the IFA and Boortmalt “do not care about the demise of tillage sector.” If we are to look at the current state of the sector one would be inclined to agree with them.
Substantial investment is required to help provide stability to cereal growers and hep the market climb back to its former glories.
Every year an estimated €60million is spent on cereals, yet with big co-operations being the ones to reap the rewards. It is also said that the tonnage of malting barley has doubled in the last 7-8 years. Although this might seem positive news, it is tainted by the increased use of imported barley from Denmark rather than Irish grown grain.
Another factor leading to stress on cereal growers has been inflated seed costs which now average at 5-7€ per tonne. Along with this further strain has been put on them with increased chemical input costs. This further proves that they are the forgotten group, left to their own devices.
It is obviously understandable that Boortmalt needed to look for other suppliers with last year’s low yields, but its evident nothing is being done to prevent this happening again.
Irish grain growers should be helped, and protected from the volatility of the market, not directly affected.
Richard Kennedy of the IFA recently said this of the sector , he said “Very significant progress has been made over the last seven years in rebuilding Ireland’s malting barley industry.
The focus by growers and Boortmalt on supplying quality Irish malting barley and malt has successfully displaced imports of brewing malt onto the island and seen the demand for malting barley grow by 250%. Separate contracts are now being offered for brewing and distilling.
The aim of both parties is to significantly build the tonnage of Irish malting barley and resulting malt used in the rapidly expanding distilling business,”.
This statement would lead one to believe all is positive in the industry according to the IFA. Although when contacted to comment and asked to answer a few questions on why Ireland’s cereal growers are the ones suffering, no answer was received.
Actions should be taken to ensure the bad year that affected these farmers will not happen again. Precautions have to be taken, and prices have to be increased to give farmers any chance of surviving the future.
And most important of all, in my opinion, Irish grain growers should be the only ones selling grain to the major distilleries around the country. It doesn’t seem ethical to call it Irish whiskey otherwise.