Man in barley field inspecting the crop

Irish Distillers: Securing quality ingredients and enhancing biodiversity

Case Studies 10/01/2022

Our business is inextricably linked to the health of the ecosystems that make up our terroirs. Any degradation of these has a direct impact on the natural ingredients we depend on for our iconic brands.

Spring barley is a significant raw ingredient in making Irish whiskeys such as Jameson, Powers, Redbreast, and Midleton Very Rare, but the impact of global warming and land quality deterioration means net barley production in Ireland is predicted to fall.

To tackle this issue and to help ensure a sustainable future for the industry Irish Distillers launched a programme to deepen their partnership with barley growers. Launched in 2020 the Sustainable Green Spring Barley Scheme now includes more than 200 barley growers.

At Irish Distillers, we recognise the need to deepen and strengthen relationships with our spring barley growers. Our distillery in Midleton is located in the part of Ireland where this crop is largely grown, and as such, some of our suppliers are also our neighbours.
Conor McQuaid
CEO, Irish Distillers

Easing the transition

Recognising that concrete actions must be taken to mitigate current challenges and maintain the quality of production, Irish Distillers launched the scheme to help preserve the land and make progress on sustainability in a way that focuses on mutual long-term benefits for farmers and distillers.

The programme is founded on three major commitments: improving the sustainability 
of the spring barley sector; supporting farmers in reducing their carbon footprint; and enhancing biodiversity on Irish tillage farms.

We are delighted that more than 200 growers signed up to our Green Spring Barley scheme in its first year, a programme which financially incentivises farmers to grow spring barley sustainably and deliver additional environmental benefits on their farms.
Conor McQuaid
CEO, Irish Distillers

The Sustainable Green Spring Barley Scheme will evolve year on year with input from individual farmers as well as important industry partners such as grain merchants and organisations like Teagasc, Bord Bia, Irish Grain Assurance and the IFA National Grain.

Incentivising farmers to grow sustainably

Making the transition to sustainable growing practices comes at a cost so the programme financially incentivises growers who sign up to join the scheme.

The quality of this barley is exceptional. Achieving this requires significant additional care and costs, which are borne by the farmer. The scheme announced today recognises the role that farmers play in the sustainable production of one of our most valuable agri-food exports.
Mark Browne
IFA National Grain Committee Chairman

When growers meet the requirements of implementing the eight essential measures initiatives, the incentive is an additional direct payment of €15 per/tonne to those growers. Growers in the programme also choose three out of seven initiatives that have a direct and positive impact on biodiversity.
In the programme’s first year every single one of the 200 growers who signed up met the essential measures and all of them made efforts to implement the optional biodiversity initiatives.

Essential measures Biodiversity initiatives
Farm safety

Uncultivated margins to regenerate the
natural ecosystem

Quality standards Maintaining hedgerows as wildlife
corridors on farmland
The use of certified seed Installation of bee boxes to assist with
Membership of Irish Grain
Assurance Scheme
Planting of native wildflower margins to
increase valuable habitat for wildlife
Nutrient management Using minimum tillage to improve soil
Glyphosate limitation Sowing catch crops to prevent soil
Biodiversity and farm
practices survey
Retaining winter stubble unsprayed to
improve winter survival of seed-eating
Carbon Foot Printing
Survey and better understanding the
carbon footprint of on-farm activity


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