Watch: Imports, ‘Irish’ drinks and the infamous crop malting barley

On this week’s episode of FarmLand we caught up with Tillage Specialist Siobhan Walsh, who summed up recent events in the malting barley sector.

In recent weeks AgriLand has covered what is essentially a crisis in the tillage sector; farmers are moving away from growing malting barley – a crop that traditionally offered a premium price.

In this interview Siobhan summarises recent stories published by AgriLand on the importation of cereal products into this country, consumers opinions on Irish drinks and the on-going negotiations between Boortmalt and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Drinks survey

Siobhan pointed out that 89% of those who took AgriLand‘s poll on ‘Irish’ drinks stated that they care that Irish brands are made by Irish ingredients, while 78% of these consumers assumed these drinks were made from Irish ingredients.

Also Read: Poll results: 89% care that ingredients are Irish; 77% would change brands

Imports

However, recent statistics published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) suggest otherwise.

AgriLand estimates that approximately 100,000t of malting barley were imported into this country in 2018, while approximately the same amount of maize for distilling was imported.

These figures showed 28,088t of malt were imported into Ireland in 2018. Worryingly, a small amount of this malt came from “unknown” regions from outside of the EU.

Marketing

“These products have built up their brands on the basis of being produced from Irish products, produced by Irish farmers. Irish farmers are getting increasingly frustrated at these advertising campaigns.

At the malting barley meetings, that I’ve been going to, farmers have said that they want the pictures of Irish farms and farmers to be taken down from the distilleries and the breweries.

She quoted a line from the Guinness website, which one farmer stated at a recent meeting. That farmer said that he believes this line to be untrue.

It reads: ‘It begins with barley. Barley sown in Irish soil and malted behind our famous gates. It’s not an easy grain to grow, which is why we have relationships with farmers that span three generations.’

No response from minister

At present these drinks do not have to be made from Irish grain. Irish Grain Whiskey does not have to be made from Irish grain.

As farmers say the “crop is no longer viable” to grow. AgriLand posed the question: Is legislation needed to ensure a percentage of Irish grain in these products?

Siobhan remarked that AgriLand has contacted the Minister for Agriculture and Bord Bia on this matter, but both declined to comment.

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