Scottish malting barley growers will bid for a bigger and more secure share of the booming Scotch whisky industry when maltsters, farmers and distillers meet for a summit later this year.
The Scottish government has announced that it will invite all stakeholders to a summit in October to pull together a strategy for growth and strip away the cereals sector’s vulnerability to volatility.
Announcing the summit, rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead said Scotch whisky was hugely important to the country’s economy. He added: “We must to all we can to support every stage of its production here in Scotland – from our barley farmers through to our whisky producers – to maintain its provenance credentials.”
The government’s move follows an appeal by NFU Scotland (NFUS) for a strategy to link malting barley producers to Scotland’s distilleries through a collaborative pact.
In a letter to Mr Lochhead, NFUS president Nigel Miller said a pact could underpin production and safeguard the crop area to ensure it was able to support the growing ambition of malt and grain whisky production for years to come.
He added: “It could also underpin agronomic development, infrastructure and map out a strategy to build our malting capacity here in Scotland so that it better matches the scale of our distilling sector.”
Mr Miller told Mr Lochhead that Scottish growers would always be challenged by volatility, a short growing season and – as this week has demonstrated – a challenging climate. However he identified the burgeoning success of Scottish Whisky as a unique, long-term opportunity for growers that could support and drive sustainable production in the years ahead.
“As we move into a new CAP era, many farm businesses must review their production systems and attempt to futureproof business models. Clear signals and balanced contracts built around a clear vision would safeguard the future supply of crops such as malting barley and distilling wheat,” he wrote.