Boortmalt’s expansion looks set to be on track to finish in the spring time and with that the plant will operate at a capacity of 180,000t of barley.

The current expansion, which is set to produce an extra 40,000t of malt, is on track to finish as planned in January, while repair works to the old plant following an incident in July should be finished by the spring time.

Pierre-Eric Souplet – barley procurement and risk management at Boortmalt – at the Diageo and Boortmalt malting barley excellence awards – filled AgriLand in on progress at the Athy site.

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“We should have the plant repaired and up and running next spring. We can expect to have it back to a normal situation in 2020,” Pierre-Eric stated.

Extra malting barley needed

When asked where the extra barley would come from Pierre-Eric stated that Boortmalt’s agri-team is promoting the Boortmalt malting barley programme to growers and it is then up to individual farmers to decide if they want to increase the area of malting barley which they grow.

It is Boortmalt’s full intention to buy the extra malting barley needed for the plant from Irish growers.

I think it’s a good opportunity for Irish farmers that the Athy malting house is expanding, because we’re going to require more malting barley.

Boortmalt has been trialing winter malting varieties as part of its research programme with Teagasc and this year the area sown to these crops was set to increase.

“It’s not for all our customers, so at the minute it has a limited allotment in Ireland, but who knows what the future will bring on that.

“Traditionally, spring barley is quite OK to be grown in Ireland. A big portion will remain in spring barley. Winter barley will depend on how our customers accept it and how it can be developed,” Pierre-Eric added.

Boortmalt now the biggest malster in the world

Pierre-Eric spoke about the Cargill malt acquisition which was completed on November 1 of this year. He told AgriLand that the acquisition makes Boortmalt “the biggest commercial malster on the planet”.

“We have new colleagues now in Australia, Argentina, North America and Europe, so we’re very pleased to have them on board.

So now Boortmalt has over 25 malting houses around the globe.

“It’s a new era to discover for us, because it’s a big step out of Europe for Boortmalt compared to the older format. We’re very happy and very excited by this challenge. It’s great.”

Charles Tozer – UK country manager and key account manager for Diageo – commented that the acquisition of Cargill will provide new perspectives and information.

“I think what it will do is it will give us a new perspective, which we can then apply in all of our plants, in all of the regions, so we’ll have more colleagues, more information, more examples that we can bring to bear in Ireland as well so it’s going to benefit everybody.”

Will it mean changes for Ireland?

Charles does not see major changes happening here in Ireland as a result of the acquisition.

“I think Ireland is a fairly self-sustaining market. It’s pretty independent of other places, but I think it will be more the knowledge and information that will help.”

In September, Drinks Ireland director, Patricia Callan, stated that there is room for another malt house in Ireland. Boortmalt is currently expanding.

“I think it’s difficult to see how that will work with the population and so on and certainly Brexit will come into play and how it will affect trade between the north and the south. It’s hard to see how that will play out in the long term,” Charles commented.

2019 harvest

Pierre commented on the 2019 harvest:

The main issue of last harvest was to deal with the quality, which was not always perfect. So, unfortunately, we had to reject a few loads here and there.

“I think the team has been very professional and they were under a bit of pressure and shock at that time due to the incident. I think the whole team did a great job to manage that crop which was better than the one before, but not perfect and not in an easy context.”

Charles concluded: “We have been able to maintain supply to customers which ultimately is at the end of everything for all of us.”