Wexford barley growers are cream of the crop
Seven barley growers from Co Wexford have been recognised at the annual Malting Barley Excellence Awards which acknowledge exemplary standards in malting barley production throughout the country.
Among the winners was Padraig Kehoe who took the overall top prize at the ceremony.
The awards were organised by Boortmalt, one of the largest producers of malt in the world, and hosted by Diageo, the largest purchaser of malting barley in Ireland.
Among the Wexford winners were: Mark McCaughley, Dunbrody, Campile; Liam Ryan, Clonmines, Wellingtonbridge; Padraig Kehoe, Garrymile, The Ballagh; John P Somers, Monroe, Glenbrien; Alan Mooney, Gurrawn, Rathnure and Coolattin Farms Ltd.,and John G Murphy Coolattin, Bunclody.
In addition to Padraig Kehoe taking home the overall top prize his namesake, Francis Kehoe, from Lacken, New Ross, took home the first prize in the seed growing category.
The keynote speaker at the event was Deputy Pat Deering who also presented the overall prize - the Guinness Perpetual Cup for Malting Barley Excellence - to Mr Kehoe who expressed delight and honour at bringing the overall winner's cup back to Wexford.
'I am looking forward to bringing the Guinness Perpetual Cup to Wexford,' he said.
'My winning formula for quality malting barley is to sow early if the conditions are right, and if not, be patient,' he added.
Mr McCaughley said adapting to new technology and developing new ways of working are also very important while Mr Ryan expressed the view that if you look after the land it will look after you.
Mr Somers highlighted the importance of looking after the crop and ensuring that it's tended to in the correct way: 'If you feed the crop, the crop will feed you.'
The overall ethos of the Wexford growers was summed up by Alan Mooney who commented that 'well sown is half grown'.
The malting barley growing season is quite short and that fact was highlighted by John Murphy who said timing is crucial to the overall success of the crop.
Francis Kehoe said that sowing malting barley at the correct time, and in the right conditions, is the key to maximising yield and quality.
Boortmalt is the malting barley division of the Axereal group which is Europe's largest grain cooperative. The group's Chief Executive Officer, Yvan Shaepman said the awards presented an opportunity to acknowledge 'excellence in the supply chain' and he complimented Mr Kehoe on his overall victory.
Diageo uses more than 130,000 tonnes of barley each year at St James's Gate with 300 tonnes used every day to brew Guinness.
The Operations Director of Diageo's St James's Gate Brewery, Aidan Crowe, said the company's success is based on rich heritage.
'From the founding of the Guinness brewery in 1759 to the creation of Baileys four decades ago, our brands are made with the finest ingredients and represent the best Ireland has to offer,' he said.
'Every year we purchase more than €275 million in goods and services from Irish companies because we can be assured that they are supplying an excellent, responsibly-grown product,' he added.