Growers receiving €20/t less than they did in 1976
FARMERS have warned they may opt out of growing malting barley, with prices now €20/t below the price they received four decades ago.
Around 100 farmers from the Irish Grain Growers’ (IGG) group gathered outside the gates of malting company Boortmalt headquarters in Athy, Co Kildare to highlight the poor returns received for the key ingredient in a pint of Guinness.
They pointed out that in 1976, the price of a pint was 48c compared to at least €4.30 today. Growers received €175/t for malting barley in 1976 compared with €155/t today. However, using a price index taking into account inflation, if it had kept pace with inflation it should be roughly the equivalent of €864/t in today’s money.
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 €220230/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 and warned they could not sign up for the higher future price as they could not guarantee delivery with the tight specifications.
The growers’ group was critical of IFA deputy president Richard Kennedy as a dairy farmer leading the IFA negotiations as chair. However, it is understood that the IFA does not intend to change this.
They called for the current deal between Boortmalt and the IFA to be “thrown out”, claiming it was “just not working”.
They stated the IFA should “withdraw” from negotiating on behalf of growers as the malting barley contracts were now “valueless”.
The IGG’s Colm Fingleton said there was “no agreement” from growers on the deal struck between the IFA and Boortmalt.
Grower James Kelly said himself and Mr Fingleton had resigned from the IFA after two years as they felt it was “failing farmers badly”.
The IFA said malting barley growers led by Richard Kennedy met Boortmalt, led by Koenraad Dumont, the group chief commercial officer 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 that without it, there was a “real danger” that farmers would exit from malting barley growing.
A spokesman for Boortmalt said it has invested millions in upgrading the plant since acquiring the Irish Malt business in 2010 and has 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”.