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Laois farmer claims top grain supplier award with Glanbia as other locals also among the winners

Laois farmer John C Fletcher has claimed the Glanbia Ireland Grain supplier of the Year Award for 2020 and the Seed Barley category champion, beating off stiff competition from fellow growers nationwide.

The fourth generation farmer from Ballykillane outside of Portarlington is among 12 suppliers honoured for producing top-class native Irish grain.

John farms with his father, John. He grows winter crops of wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape along with spring crops of malting barley, feed beans and oilseed rape. He uses beans and oilseed rape as an entry crop to seed crops whenever possible. Most are sown using a plough-based, establishment system.

“Rotation is key. We’re always trying to build fertility in the soil as we’re in continuous tillage. 2020 wasn’t a great year as drought got us very early on.

“Yields were poor and were down about a half tonne an acre on 2019 levels. But thankfully the quality was good and price was better than previous years. ”

As well as tending to several hundred acres, John and his family also run a hardware and electrical contracting business which employs over 130 people. Currently under construction is a 25,000 sq ft hardware retail store.

Glanbia Ireland Chairman John Murphy congratulated the growers whose excellence and attention to detail are recognised as central to the exceptionally high standards in the industry, as evidenced at the latest awards. He looks forward to a promising year ahead.

“Grain farmers across Ireland continue to produce extremely high quality grains, albeit in very challenging weather conditions over the past number of years.

“2020 was no different with 60% more than average rainfall and high winds wreaking havoc in the south and south east, particularly in August. Despite all of this, our award winners and their fellow growers excelled and have raised the bar even further this year.

“Production was down an estimated 18% nationally in 2020 but the outlook for 2021 looks promising. Forecasts look good, prices have increased and there’s a confidence that markets have strengthened and hopefully that the trend will continue,” he said.

The expert nutritional, R&D and sustainability team at Glanbia Ireland’s Plant Hub are continuously innovating and examining more efficient, environmentally-friendly and healthier ways of feeding the human and animal population.

Head of Strategic Alliances at Glanbia Ireland Tom Finlay said: “Glanbia Ireland is the largest buyer and user of native Irish grains. Our gluten-free oatmeal base doubled in volumes in 2020, based on 2019 intake.

“We are expanding our value chain to include a range of oat flour which is used in a number of nutritious applications. We will bring a range of quinoa offerings to market and these will include flakes and flour. We’ve also introduced a range of organic oatmeal this year,” he revealed.

Glanbia Ireland’s total green grain intake for 2020 stood at 171,260 tonnes, down from 206,040 in 2019. Glanbia will also buy around 80,000 tonnes of dried grain from the 2020 harvest.

Also among the Glanbia winners were the Brennan family from Barrowhouse who won the seed wheat category while Patrick McEvoy from Kilberry, Athy, just across the Laois border was the winner of the green feed wheat section.

John C Fletcher, overall winner of the Glanbia Ireland 2020 Grain Supplier of the Year Award. John also took the Seed Barley title in the competition.
Ignatius Brennan and his son James on their farm in Barrowhouse. The Brennans were the winners of the seed wheat category at the Glanbia Grain supplier awards
Pat McEvoy on his farm at Kilberry near Athy – Pat was the winner of the green feed wheat category

The full list of category winners was:

  • Winter (Cassia) Feed Barley – Richard Thomson-Moore, Barne Estate, Clonmel, Co Tipperary
  • Malting Barley – Diarmuid MacAmhlaoibh, Ballyarra, Castlelyons, Co Cork
  • Green Feed Barley – Martin Hayden, Coolroe, Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny
  • Dried Feed Barley – Michael Cloney, Curracloe, Co Wexford
  • Seed Barley – John C. Fletcher, Ballykillane, Portarlington, Co Laois
  • Green Feed Wheat – Patrick McEvoy, Kilberry, Athy, Co Kildare.
  • Dried Feed Wheat – Philip Doyle, Lullymore Farm, Rathangan, Co Kildare
  • Seed Wheat – The Brennan Family, Chapel Avenue Farm, Barrowhouse, Athy, Co Kildare
  • Food Grade Oats – John Leahy, The Heath Farm, Athy, Co Kildare
  • Green Feed Oats – Tom McKeown, Knock, Castletown, Navan, Co Meath
  • Green Feed Beans – Philip Murphy, Ballykerogue, Campile, Co Wexford
  • Green Oilseed Rape – Ivan Curran, Broadleas Farm, Broadleas, Stamullen, Co Meath

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. Husband of Emily, father of William, Lillian and John, he's happiest when he's telling stories