Malting barley growers protest at poor price and ‘IFA inaction’

Malting Barley growers protesting at Boormalt.
Malting Barley growers protesting at Boormalt.

Over 100 malting barley growers protested today at Boormalt, Athy, over poor malting barley prices and what they say is the failure of the IFA’s malting barley committee to conduct meaningful negotiations on behalf of growers.

A spokesperson for the farmers said farmers’ frustration had boiled over with both the IFA and the grain company over the price farmers received for malting barley this year.

He went on to say that the IFA had promised to look at the price of barley this year for growers, but nothing was done. “Last Tuesday night there was a meeting in Athy of malting barley growers and the IFA was given till lunchtime Friday to come back with news of progress and if they didn’t a protest would go ahead. We heard nothing back from the IFA. We went there as IFA members but there was no one from the hierarchy there today.”

Boormalt, he said, reduced its malting barley price to €147/t this year, from €169/t last year, the spokesperson said, as well as introducing new protein specifications. “We heard in spring that the protein specification was to go from 11.6 to 10.8, which we rejected as growers. Seed was out since January and people had started sowing in March. It was April before we heard of the protein specification change. The IFA malting barley committee was representing us and accepted the changes. But we, as growers, reject them.

“Growers were finding it hard to pass the previous limit, not to mind the new one. This meant that tillage farmers were afraid to forward sell because of this.” The spokesperson estimates that only about 5,000t out of over 120,000t crop grown, was forward sold.

malting barley protest

The growers were then given a price on September 17 which, they say, was the lowest price of the year. “Last year malting barley was making €169/t and this year we got €147/t.” Input costs have gone through the roof, he said, and the current price would not have been accepted a few years ago.

He said the growers argued all season long to try alleviate the situation but no leeway was given. “The product is top notch. We can only grow one variety, we are restricted with nitrogen and roundup and we’ve jumped through hoops on quality measures over the past couple of years.”

Boormalt is the second largest producer of malt in Europe and is a subsidiary of Axereal, the largest French grain co-operative. It is believed that up to 500 growers supply Boormalt in Ireland.

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