In an Oireachtas committee on Tuesday evening Independent TD for east Galway/Roscommon Michael Fitzmaurice, pointed out that malt barley growers could make better returns growing spruce trees at €200/ac premium than malt barley for a profit margin of €150/ac.

The point was made at a committee hearing on the future of the tillage sector, during a presentation given by Boortmalt chief operations officer Peter Nallen. This was the third such committee hearing in recent weeks dedicated to the future of the Irish tillage sector.

The committee is very worried about the direction our industry is going

The figures of €150/ac or €50/t profit for malt barley, excluding subsidy payment, had been supplied by Boortmalt during their presentation.

Nallen stated that he was ‘‘not shy about saying we have the most sophisticated pricing system for malting barley in Europe’’.

In a very open presentation, Nallen outlined Boortmalt’s commitment to using malting barley that was 100% Irish and could be traced ‘‘from seed to glass’’.

The company currently has over 600 suppliers growing malt barley from 60,000ha of land in Ireland, with plans for this to increase next year.

Despite what appears to be very low returns, Nallen said that they had a constant stream of tillage farmers seeking contracts with Boortmalt.

Puzzled over low prices

Yet the demand for contracts in contrast to the low profit margins seemed to puzzle the deputies in attendance. Martin Kenny from Sinn Féin said: “I don’t get why a farmer would grow malting barley at that price.”

Concern over low market gains from the tillage sector were also expressed by Deputy Jackie Cahill of Fianna Fáil as he concluded the meeting, “the committee is very worried about the direction our industry is going”.

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