The Irish Grain Growers held a second demonstration outside the Guinness Storehouse on Monday and there will be more demonstrations to come unless there is progress on better malting barley prices for growers, the group has warned.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, Bobby Miller, chair of the group, said there has been no response form Boortmalt and no progress has been made at all since the group were last outside the storehouse.

“The reality is, things haven’t changed. We’re still looking for a minimum of €200/t, a simplified sell-in scheme. We’re looking for the specifications to be loosened a little bit as well.

“We got a response from Diageo and the response means that they don’t understand the situation at present.

“We’ve been ignored totally by who we supply, Boortmalt, and that is not acceptable. We represent 40% to 50% of the barley that is delivered into Guinness and Diageo. They made €3.6bn last year alone; we only made around €30,000.”

Getting out

Traditional malting barley acres are disappearing and there’s more money in sowing winter crops, Miller said.

“You go and ask any of these farmers here today what their opinion on malting barley is, they’ll say ‘we’re not sowing it any more, we’re reducing the acreage’.”

Another protest

When asked if the growers would be back outside the Guinness Storehouse again, Miller said: “That’s up to Diageo, to give us a proper response to the situation. We have told them when we’ll be back, but we won’t reveal that just yet.

“We’re here on nice quiet day today, that’s the only clue I’ll give you. The next time it might not be so quiet.”

Diageo: ‘we’ve no role in malting barley price negotiations’

However, a spokesperson from Diageo said that it does not buy grain from growers but purchases finished malt from malting companies.

In a statement to the Irish Farmers Journal, it said the company has no role whatsoever in negotiations regarding the price of malting barley and that these are a matter for growers and malting companies.

Nor does Diageo set the price of a pint in pubs, it said.

“Diageo has always been supportive of Irish farmers and farming in Ireland and will continue to be so.

“As the largest buyer of Irish malting barley, Diageo understands and appreciates the work by Boortmalt in conjunction with the Irish Farmers Association to protect growers from global price variances.

Unlike others in the drinks sector in Ireland, we neither import beer for sale and nor do we rely on imported grain

“In addition, it values the investment by both the IFA and Boortmalt in research and development to support farmers in growing the highest-quality Irish malting barley.

“We produce all of our beer for the Irish market in St James’s Gate. Thanks to the partnership between malting barley growers, the Irish Farmers Association and Boortmalt, we have been able to source the majority of our malt from growers in Ireland over the last number of years, and this is something we want to continue.

“Unlike others in the drinks sector in Ireland, we neither import beer for sale and nor do we rely on imported grain.

“A combination of high world grain stocks, greater competition from Russia coupled with higher production costs due in a large part to the disproportionate increase in fertiliser costs has resulted in reduced milling wheat premiums and margins for all grain growers in recent years. Boortmalt continues to engage with the IFA on this issue.

“We again remind the Irish Grain Growers Association that our business relationship is with Boortmalt, who in turn negotiate on pricing and other issues with the Irish Farmers Association.

“We urge them to contact the IFA who are responsible for taking on board the concerns they are raising. Diageo has no role to play in these discussions.”

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