Watch: Boortmalt starts new development – an extra 40,000t of malt

Boortmalt announced the commencement of its planned expansion at The Maltings in Athy, Co. Kildare, yesterday afternoon, July 17. AgriLand visited and work was well underway.

Malt has been produced at The Maltings site in Athy for over 170 years. Yesterday, the company announced the expansion of its plant in Athy, which it says will secure the future of the malting industry in the country for many years to come.

The plant currently produces just under 100,000t of malt and that figure is set to rise to 140,000t once the expansion is completed in January 2020.

Speaking at the launch, Peter Nallen – chief operations officer (COO) with Boortmalt – stated that the company is committed to Irish growers.

“One of the fundamental, strategic objectives of Boortmalt when it acquired the Irish business of Greencore Malt in 2010 was to source 100% of its malting barley locally; to produce malt locally here in Athy; and to service and deliver to Irish brewers and distillers,” he stated.

The expansion is supported by Axereal – a French farmers’ co-op which owns Boortmalt.

Increase in malting barley will be needed

Running at full capacity, AgriLand estimates that almost 180,000t of green barley will be needed to produce 140,000t of malt.

As a result, Boortmalt has told AgriLand in recent times that growers will have the opportunity to increase their acreage of malting barley if they wish and there may be opportunities to increase the number of growers who supply the company.

In recent years, Boortmalt has been sourcing barley in counties further afield than its traditional catchment area of counties Kildare, Laois, Carlow and Wexford. It has ventured to counties such as Louth, Donegal and Cork.

Peter added that Boortmalt is committed to delivering a fair price for its growers and that it is important that growers receive a fair price for their product and are rewarded for their effort.

Irish malting barley is right up there – world-class quality.

“We now need world-class quantity and we need to work with the IFA [Irish Farmers’ Association] and all our growers to make sure that happens. The pricing system we put in place and we negotiate on an annual basis is now industry leading. It’s the best pricing system in Europe.”

He noted the investment the company makes in research, most recently the partnership with Teagasc.

“We’re doing our very best to ensure that the collaboration [with Teagasc] will ultimately ensure that our growers have either the first or second most profitable cereal crop on the island.”

That’s in keeping with our ambition to taking into consideration the hard work our growers put into supply here.

Local photographer Robert Redmond was taking photos on the day. He is based across the road, and the canal, from the Boortmalt site

IFA says farmers need premium products

Speaking at the tour of the new site, chairperson of the IFA grain committee Mark Browne commented on the expansion:

“We’re delighted with the expansion, as it will increase the tonnage of quality, premium barley being supplied by growers, which will fall under the pricing structure that we have now.

The more tonnes that are needed the better for farmers, as it will increase premium markets. We need premium markets for the sustainability of the tillage industry.

A host of local politicians were on hand to see the start of the new development. Among them were: Minister of State, Andrew Doyle; TD Pat Deering – chairperson of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture; as well as The Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó’Fearghaíl.

Where does all the malt go?

During his remarks, Peter stated that: “We wouldn’t be in business without the customers we supply.”

Pat Kennedy – the malting plant manager at Boortmalt – gave some background to what the malt is used for.

“We produce just under 100,000t of malt on this site. Over 70% of that goes into St. James’s Gate in Dublin, so if you drink a pint of Guinness you are drinking Guinness made with our malt, grown with our barley locally.

“So, for us it’s a real success story. Guinness is a global brand, as are Bushmills, Heineken, Jameson and all of the different customers that we have.

We will be expanding by 40%, because the demand is here on the island, particularly with the growth in the distilling industry.

Pat explained that the plant currently has the capacity to store up to 60,000t of barley and 15,000t of malt. The new plant will take batches of 240t at a time and create the extra 40,000t mentioned earlier.

What will the expansion consist of?
  • A steep house containing four conical steeps;
  • Two germinating vessels;
  • One circular kiln;
  • Utilities building.

“The plan is that we will be up and running and in operation by January 2020. The customers need the malt so we’ve a very, very tight schedule,” Pat added.

Timeline to the plan

The start of the development has been long awaited. Boortmalt first announced a plan to increase capacity at its plant by 30,000t in November 2017 and hoped for it to be operational by June 2019.

By March 2018, Boortmalt announced to AgriLand that this expansion was planned to be for an extra 50,000t of barley.

The site for the new plant before work began in Athy

Following a change in land use, the way was cleared for planning permission to be sought. This change was discussed at a meeting of the Athy Municipal District in February 2018 and members agreed to the land-use change which allowed Boortmalt to apply for planning permission.

In March 2019, Peter Nallen (Boortmalt’s COO in Ireland) stated that the company believed that there is room for expansion in the malting industry here in Ireland and it wants this expansion to come from Irish malting barley.

When AgriLand visited the site, in March of this year, much of the equipment was on site and ready to go, as can be seen in the images below. The plant is expected to be finished by January 2020.