‘The price of drink is going up, while we’re on the brink of giving up’

The strong numbers at the Irish Grain Growers Group’s (IGGG) demonstration of facts on Tuesday morning (October 24) was a clear indication that farmers are unhappy.

AgriLand spoke to a number of these farmers.

The summary of the conversations was that at a harvest price of €154.80/t, farmers are now faced with a decision – to continue growing malting barley or not.

Liam Delaney, Portlaoise, Co. Laois

“I’m a barley grower and for the past ten years the price hasn’t covered production. Some of the best land in the country is under malting barley and the price per tonne that we’re getting is an insult.

This is supposed to be a premium product, producing Guinness and everything else, and its only making €154/t. It’s an absolute disgrace that we’ve got to this position.

Will you continue to grow malting barley?

“Not at that price. Around my area people are all going down the dairy road. I know that, when compared with dairy, the beef price is equivalent to about 17c/L. The tillage price must be about 12c/L – that’s how far down the scale we are. It can’t continue the way it is. There will be no one growing it. It’s impossible.”

Pat Finn, Liam Delaney and Paul Dooley at the IGGG’s ‘demonstration of facts’ in Athy

Pat Finn, Ballyfin, Co. Laois

“We’re getting paid the same prices that we were receiving in 1980. My single farm payment has halved and so has everyone else’s in this group. The price of a pint was 80c in 1980; it’s a fiver now; who’s getting the money?

“I won’t continue to grow it at this price. It’s a poor set up because my father grew it, I grew it and my son is growing it and now we’re pulling the plug after all of those years. It’s one more industry that we’re going to lose. The IFA is doing nothing for us at the moment.”

Clive Carter, Bobby Miller, Frank Murphy, Art Murphy and Maurice McGrath protesting outside Boortmalt in Athy

ICSA president, Patrick Kent

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) attended the demonstration to show support to tillage farmers. The ICSA has launched its own tillage committee, which will be formed in the coming months.

“We see the need to support our tillage sector. It’s vitally important to have high-quality feed available. The price of malting barley is absolutely scandalous. It should be based on the price of what the consumer drinks. It should be a proper proportion of what the consumer spends,” said ICSA president Patrick Kent.

“It’s vital that we have a vibrant tillage sector in the country. It provides straw and by-products for the livestock sector.

“We launched a tillage committee at the ploughing championships. We’re assembling it now as people express interest in being involved. We need to look for a way forward for our tillage sector.”

Some of the attendees at the IGGG’s ‘demonstration’ of facts in Athy

Frank Murphy, Wellington Bridge, Co. Wexford

“In 2012 the quality of barley was very poor and we got €255/t. Now we’re getting €154.80/t. We’re not even breaking even. The price of drink is going up; Guinness and Irish whiskey are being sold worldwide, but we’re on the brink of giving up.”

Harry King, Folksmills, Co. Wexford

“I’m protesting here today because of the way the IFA is handling all of this. Boortmalt is collecting a compulsory levy for the IFA and, while that’s happening, a price can’t be negotiated.”

Some of the attendees at the IGGG’s ‘demonstration of facts’ in Athy yesterday

Bernard Lambert, Ramsgrange, Co. Wexford

“At €155/t there isn’t a bob in it for anybody. It’s costing more than that to produce it. The quality that we have to produce to meet the standards of Boortmalt and Guinness – we’re not getting paid for it. Where do we go from here? We all have costs – we all have machinery to pay for,” he explained.

“The price of Guinness has gone up. Surely we are entitled to a slice of that profit. Five years ago we got over €200/t for malting barley and the price of beer and spirits went up. We’re now receiving €100/t less than we did in 2012, but the price of beer didn’t come back down.”

Maurice McGrath, Ramsgrange, Co. Wexford

Maurice McGrath was one of the few young farmers in attendance at the protest. AgriLand asked would he be growing malting barley, at current prices, next year.

“Not for Boortmalt. I grow for Glanbia, which has shown a little bit of support this year with its price. It’s an insult to farmers – the price that Boortmalt have offered. The IFA is the group that are supposed to represent us.

“Boortmalt’s costs are far more expensive than anyone else’s, for the same quality seed and sprays,” he added.