David Walsh-Kimmer, a 13th-generation tillage farmer from Ireland, has 160 hectares of working farm land producing malting barley, oats and rapeseed.
Speaking to Milling & Grains at his farm in County Laois, Ireland, he said the past year had been exceptionally difficult for business.
“The grain price is the biggest challenge this year without question – it’s costing me more to produce grain than I’m going to be able to sell it for this year,” he said.
“In a way you feel helpless because there’s not a lot you can do about that – it is market driven; weather driven, so you kind of have to hang in there. You wait for the good years and hope to make enough money for that to cover when years aren’t so good.”
Oats opportunity: The price is better for gluten-free...
However, Walsh-Kimmer said a recent contract with Glanbia Nutritionals to supply gluten-free oats added a level of security to business.
He had worked with Glanbia for two years on contract and produced his first gluten-free crop this year. This year’s oat crop totalled 216 tons, of which 54.7 tons were gluten-free.
Asked what the appeal of going gluten-free was, he said: “There’s a couple of reasons: the price is better than it would be for a standard crop and it’s great to have a contract you know whatever oats you produce is actually going to be bought up; you’re not worrying about trying to sell it at harvest.”
In addition, shifting to gluten-free production had not been a difficult transition to make, he said.
“It’s a very, very similar process it’s just there are a lot more inspections involved in terms of makings sure all the equipment is cleaned and has no barley in it and making sure the fields are clean and don’t have any problem weeds in them,” he said.
Working with Glanbia made things even easier, he said, as they had their own dedicated combine-harvesters they used for harvesting the gluten-free oats to ensure a contamination-free chain.
“It’s really a very straight-forward process for us,” he said.
Glanbia will mill its first gluten-free oat crop in November this year.