Written answers

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Agriculture Industry

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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630. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will consider requesting to amend the Irish whiskey protected geographic indication, PGI, technical file to state barley for Irish whiskey must be sourced on the island of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62802/21]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Approximately 17% of total Irish barley production is procured by the drinks sector; the balance of the national barley crop is grown for animal feed and seed production. It is open to individual farmers to decide what enterprise they undertake and to what scale it should be undertaken, according to their land type and with due consideration to the market terms for their products.

As only basic malt is produced in Ireland, drinks requiring specialised malts are often either reliant on imported malt or the export of Irish grain for processing and the re-importation for use in the drinks industry.

Independent reports estimate that 93% of all barley used in brewing and distilling is native barley, and that the balance is sourced mainly from the UK, with some imports also from the EU.

The technical files for the Geographical Indication (GI) for Irish Spirit Drink Irish Whiskey/Uisce Beatha Eireannach/Irish Whisky was confirmed by the European Commission in March 2019 as meeting the required conditions laid down in relevant EU Regulation.

Whilst the Irish Whiskey Technical file contains specifics relating to the types and combinations of grains to be used for the creation of mashes for the production of each of the varieties of Irish Whiskey, it does not specify any requirements regarding the sourcing of the raw materials including grains utilised in the production of Irish Whiskey.

Restricting the sourcing of inputs such as cereals/grains in the production of Spirit Drinks cannot conflict with the EU Treaty rules on the freedom of movement of goods. However, notwithstanding the absence of such a requirement in the specification, the malting sector has undoubtedly delivered an added value outlet for Irish barley growers in recent years with the brewing and distilling sectors utilising approximately 250,000 tonnes of Irish barley annually of which 90,000 tonnes were purchased for the Irish whiskey industry.

The Deputy may wish to note that requests have been submitted to my Department seeking various amendments to the Irish Whiskey technical file. Any amendments to the technical file must undergo detailed scrutiny to assess compliance with the EU rules for Geographical Indications and spirit drinks and will also require consultation with stakeholders.


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