Opinion

Malting barley negotiations – another poor show from the IFA hierarchy

Malting barley growers do not suffer from an IQ deficit. In fact, their ranks include a number of Ireland’s most forward-thinking farmers.

So, for the IFA’s hierarchy to have so many of them scratching their heads – and that’s putting it mildly – in the context of this year’s contract negotiations with Boortmalt really beggars belief.

At the heart of their frustration is the performance put on by the IFA hierarchy at a growers’ meeting held in Bunclody recently. By all accounts, a not-so-impressive presentation on the complex details of the discussions held with Boortmalt was left hanging in the air with attendees forced to take notes on whatever scraps of paper they had in their pockets.

Given the importance of these discussions to individual growers, this was hardly the most impressive way for the IFA to communicate with such an important membership group. Those of us who go to mass or church on a Sunday come away, at the very least, with the weekly news bulletin.

The Bunclody meeting was followed by a subsequent statement from the IFA to the effect that a deal had been arrived at with Boortmalt. This was issued on the day of the February National Executive Meeting. Yet later that same week growers were still indicating their uncertainty as to whether a deal had been arrived at and, if so, what were the actual details of the contract arrangements for 2015.

All of this reflects badly on the IFA. The organisation may well have arrived at the best possible deal on behalf of malting barley growers: the problem is that significant numbers of these farmers have not been convinced to this end.

And, shock of horrors, that old chestnut of IFA fees was to be found lurking in the shadows of the contract negotiations’ debacle. Days after the announcement by the IFA to the effect that a contract deal had been arrived at, a number of growers were threatening not to pay the organisation’s levy on grain sales to Boortmalt this year, such was the depth of their anger.

It all adds up to another poor show on the part of Ireland’s foremost farming body.

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