Farmers voice anger over Boortmalt seed contract changes
At an IFA meeting held in Bunclody, Co Wexford, on Wednesday night, seed growers for Boortmalt expressed their frustration over changes made to this year's contracts.

Malting barley seed growers voiced their anger on Wednesday night at the changes made to the pricing structure in their seed contracts with Boortmalt this year.

Under the new pricing structure, growers will be paid a premium of €32/t over the green harvest price for feed grain.

Previously, growers who produced malting seed barley for Boortmalt received a premium over the malting barley price.

In 2018, for example, growers were paid €17/t over the price of malting barley for their seed crop.

The meeting was organised by the IFA and heard from a number of members of its malting barley committee, who voiced their frustration at Boortmalt’s decision to move away from a malting-based index to a feed-based index, given their efforts to do the opposite for the current malting barley price deal.

“We spent a long number of years trying to get away from our malt contracts being linked to the price of feed grain,” said IFA grain chair Mark Browne.

With the Fob Creil (malting barley market) holding strong in comparison to feed grain markets, seed growers fear that malting barley crops would be worth more than seed crops under the new pricing structure.

Moving the goalposts

Over half of the 40 growers who produce seed for Boortmalt were in attendance at the meeting.

Many growers only learned of the contract changes when the seed was already in their sheds, and a number of growers had their seed crops sown when they found out.

“It’s like they’re moving the goal posts when the game has already started,” one Wexford-based grower remarked.

Seed growers also received the opportunity to fix up to 20% of their contacts at €230/t.

As this offer was made in 2018, they will receive last year’s seed premiums of €17/t for this proportion of their contract.

Rejection

Growers at the Wednesday night meeting unanimously opted to reject the new price offer and stated that for the 2019 crop, the old pricing structure should be retained.

While still opting to sow the crop, growers agreed that they wouldn’t sign their contracts until the 2018 pricing structure was restored.

Many growers felt that this was the first step in fully outsourcing seed production.

The IFA has called a meeting with Boortmalt officials on the matter.

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Boortmalt seed barley anger

New voice for the tillage sector
A number of different organisations within the tillage sector have come together to form Tillage Industry Ireland, a new representative body for the whole sector.

A new body called Tillage Industry Ireland (TII) has been established by a number of stakeholders in the tillage sector to provide a unified approach to the sector’s development.

The group will be made up of sellers of inputs, buyers of grain, producers of feed, suppliers of seed and services, as well as growers.

Those involved felt the tillage sector had been largely ignored in the development of Irish agriculture and saw the need for a coordinated approach. The importance of transparency and sustainability to modern consumers will be a key area of focus for TII.

Currently there are eight different organisations involved including; the merchant groups Independent Merchants Ltd and the Federation of Agricultural Retail Merchants, the Irish Farmers’ Association grain committee, the Animal and Plant Health Association, the Irish Seed Trade Association, the Irish Fertilizer Manufacturers Association, the Irish Tillage Consultants Association and the Irish Farmers Journal.

As there are a number of vested interest groups, they will continue to lobby individually for issues important to them while TII focuses on changing the current perception of tillage and Irish crops.

The new group has already commissioned an independent report to ascertain the contribution of the tillage sector to Irish agriculture and the rural economy.

Matt Dempsey is to act as president. He will work alongside a board and officers who are; chairman Andy Doyle, secretary Richie Hackett and treasurer John Keogh.

Matt Dempsey, said that: “Tillage Industry Ireland aims to develop a vision for a sustainable and competitive tillage sector within Irish agriculture. This will be built around innovation, high quality and full traceability throughout the food chain. It also aims to provide a single unified voice for the sector and to promoting the benefits of an integrated agriculture sector for sustainability.

“It will strive to promote the production and marketing of quality traceable foods, drinks and feedstuffs. It will also have a focus on providing solutions for environmental issues such as water quality and biodiversity and emissions from agriculture”.

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New voice for the tillage sector
Born out of frustration, a new grouping of representative bodies from within tillage businesses aims to provide a new voice and vision for the sector.

A new grouping called Tillage Industry Ireland has been established to help present a unified voice for the sector. The grouping is a representative body for the many individual groupings that already exist. The objective is to help present a unified approach towards the development of the sector within Irish agriculture.

In this regard, the group is quite unique in that it involves sellers of inputs, buyers of grain, producers of feed, suppliers of seed and services, as well as growers. While each individual grouping will still have the need to service its own sector, the combined grouping will take a more holistic view of how tillage can contribute profitably to growers and agriculture as a whole.

Why was it developed?

The need for the organisation was driven from the fact that the tillage sector has being largely ignored in the development of Irish agriculture in recent years. It is likely to become increasingly difficult for agriculture as a whole to develop in the absence of a more coordinated approach.

Modern food consumers are tending to demand transparency and sustainability, and the tillage sector can help

This includes looking towards the broad meaning of sustainability. Modern food consumers are tending to demand transparency and sustainability, and the tillage sector can help. Tillage is good for the rural economy, in that it has a high overall requirement for inputs, machinery, repairs, etc, and other businesses which turn over money in local economies.

Who is involved?

Currently there are eight different organisations involved, almost all of which are umbrella groups for individual sector interests. These include the merchant groups Independent Merchants Ltd and the Federation of Agricultural Retail Merchants, the Irish Farmers’ Association Grain Committee, the Animal and Plant Health Association, the Irish Seed Trade Association, the Irish Fertilizer Manufacturers Association, the Irish Tillage Consultants Association and the Irish Farmers Journal. They have helped to develop the new organisation, but it is likely that other groups with a vested interest in the tillage sector will also become involved.

As well as the individual groups involved, Matt Dempsey is to act as president of the group. He will work alongside the board and its officers: chair Andy Doyle, secretary Richie Hackett and treasurer John Keogh.

What will it do?

Because it represents many individual vested interests, Tillage Industry Ireland will focus on the development of the tillage sector to cooperate with all other agricultural enterprises, to help build a better future for all.

The challenge is to change the current perception of tillage and Irish crops

Within this grouping, the individual organisations will still have to do their own lobbying for issues that are important to them, but the new organisation will be active on issues that are important for the sector as a whole.

The challenge is to change the current perception of tillage and Irish crops. These existing representative organisations have come together to work for a sustainable, vibrant and viable tillage industry in Ireland.

One of new group’s first tasks was to commission an independent report to ascertain the contribution of the tillage sector to Irish agriculture and the rural economy. Tillage generates significant local annual turnover for merchants and co-ops, but we lack real data on the value of this contribution, both in terms of money and jobs. For this reason, this report is seen as essential to provide background information for the sector.

It will strive to promote the production and marketing of quality traceable foods, drinks and feedstuffs

“Tillage Industry Ireland aims to develop a vision for a sustainable and competitive tillage sector within Irish agriculture. This will be built around innovation, high quality and full traceability throughout the food chain. It also aims to provide a single unified voice for the sector and to promote the benefits of an integrated agriculture sector for sustainability,” said president Matt Dempsey.

“It will strive to promote the production and marketing of quality traceable foods, drinks and feedstuffs. It will also have a focus on providing solutions for environmental issues.”

Lack of appreciation within assurance schemes for the effort that goes into crop production to achieve assurance has long been a point of frustration for the sector, especially for growers. While there may be limited potential to impose obligatory inclusion levels for native grains, some companies or products might be able to opt for such a policy to help marketing.

In brief

  • Tillage Industry Ireland is a new grouping of many existing umbrella organisations with the tillage sector.
  • It aims to improve recognition for the value of native grains and to help create a vision for a more sustainable and competitive tillage sector.
  • The group is unique in that it represents growers alongside merchants and other product and service providers in the sector.
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    Sixty applications were initially rejected on the grounds of not meeting the criteria (minimum loss of 30%) or not having the required information.

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