Irish farmers protest against barley prices

Irish Times -- Farmers handed out free cans of Guinness in Dublin yesterday to protest over the price they receive for malting barley, a crop they say they will not grow again unless they get higher prices for doing so.

Irish Farmers' Association president Pádraig Walshe said Guinness had argued it does not buy grain from farmers but from the maltsters, Greencore Malt.

"But the fact is that 95 per cent of our malt is purchased by Guinness and I am telling them now that unless we get the same price as last year, €205 per tonne, farmers will not grow the crop next year," he said.

"The price on offer to growers of €165 a tonne is jeopardising future supplies. Given the scale of the increase in their input costs, growers must maintain a margin or they will not produce a crop.

"If Guinness want to keep the Irish harp on the pint of stout, they will have to pay a realistic price to Irish malting barley growers, and Diageo and Greencore Malt cannot continue to take growers for granted," he said.

As the 300 protesting farmers handed out cans of Guinness to the public, Mr Walshe said he wanted to get the message across that farmers received just over one cent for each pint of the brew.

"Every year Guinness put 2-3 per cent on the price of a pint. Last March they added an additional 3.5 per cent to the pint and before the year is out they are adding a further 2 per cent," he claimed.

IFA grain chairman Colum McDonnell said the justification used by Diageo, which manufactures Guinness, for increasing the price of a pint higher raw material costs. "Yet their main supplier Greencore Malt is cutting the price paid to malting barley growers by over 20 per cent," he said.

Mr Walshe said Guinness had prided itself on its worldwide reputation as a premium Irish product and a company with tradition. "Now it is putting malting barley growers out of business," he said.

Over the past 10 years more than 5,000 growers had gone out of the business and the 250,000 tonnes of quality malt required by Guinness were being produced by only 3,000 growers, he added.

"We are not being greedy. We are facing rising costs of over €40 per tonne on fertiliser and oil costs. We are seeking last year's price but I believe if we do not get it, then no farmer will plant the crop next year," he said. Diageo Ireland rejected the IFA claims.

"Diageo does not buy malting barley from growers but purchases finished malt from malting companies. It has no role whatsoever in negotiations regarding the price of malting barley - these are a matter for growers and malting companies.