These are exciting times for Co. Louth-based grain and agri-merchants Loughran’s Stores who have started to assemble barley for Ireland’s largest maltings company, Boortmalt.
While Loughran’s Stores has been in business for 40 years, the Loughran family have been growing barley for much longer. The tradition goes back to 1908 when the family took ownership of what had been a Land Commission holding in Haggardstown, Co. Louth.
Loughran’s Stores was established on the same holding in 1979 by Anthony Loughran as grain intake, feed mill and agri-merchants. Nowadays, the business also provides storage and warehousing facilities and incorporates Loughran Family Malt, which uses grain grown mostly on the family to produce malt and to also provide a range of ingredients such as hops and yeast to Irish craft breweries, and Leinster Environmentals, which specialises in the collection and recycling of farm plastics.
“Loughran’s Stores has allowed us to diversify into other activities that will enable us to build a sustainable long-term future,” explains James Loughran, son of founder Anthony and a sixth-generation barley grower.
“The original goal of Loughran’s Stores was to supply seeds and fertilisers to local farmers, buy their grain for milling or drying and sell it back out to them. We were also potato merchants in the late 1980s and 1990s before getting into producing malt for brewing. There are six of us employed in the business, including my father, my mother Mary and my wife Sheila.
“Some of our customers are third-generation. They have remained loyal to us because of the high level of personal care and service they receive. We deliver the best value by shopping around and passing on the savings to our customers. We treat them like family.”
The Loughrans continue to be leading grain buyers in the north Leinster area and are ideally located just off the M1 Motorway for both the northern and southern markets. They also supply the seed, fertilisers, chemicals, agronomy and ventilated segregated store for the grain, completing the full traceability chain from seed to end user. In addition to this, they supply a range of animal feeds and other products.
The company’s storage and warehousing facilities are located on the same site. Here, some of the feed that’s imported into Ireland through the nearby ports of Greenore, Dundalk and Drogheda for feed mills, including soybean meal and citrus fruit, is stored. The site had an excellent security and tracking system in place to monitor and protect all stocks.
James sees huge potential in Loughran Family Malt which he set up with the aim of bringing malting barley back to the north-east. The crop was once widely grown in the region to supply the many breweries and distilleries that operated in the area. But since the closure of the Great Northern Brewery in Dundalk, which brewed Harp Lager, there has been a dramatic decline in the amount of malting barley grown in the area.
Last season, Loughran Family Malt began to assemble grain for Boortmalt in Athy, Co. Kildare and James views malting barley as a value-added crop that can provide a greater return for the grower and make tillage a competitive enterprise once again.
“We started off on a small-scale last year, taking in malting barley from a few farmers in counties Louth, Meath and north Dublin. The plan is to triple the area and we’ll have about 1,000 acres going in this year. As well as being a Boortmalt supplier, we dry, screen and store the barley for them.”
Grain price is the same as with any other Boortmalt supplier and Loughran’s will make any price offers – made by Boortmalt – available for growers. The only stipulation is that growers sign a contract and plant Boortmalt seed. If a growers’ barley doesn’t pass as malting barley, they will not be penalised.
“Boortmalt makes the call on whether it passes or fails. If it passes, then that’s great. If it fails, it’s entirely up to the grower as to what happens next. They can choose to sell it to Loughran’s Stores, take it home or sell it elsewhere. There’s no obligation on the grower to sell anything. We will pay a leading price if it’s feeding barley.”
James is in no doubt that growing malt barley can increase farmer’s profits.
“Tillage is a tough business at the best of times, and it’s up to us to make the most of the value that’s in our crops. We’re looking for farmers in the north-east who are interested in growing malting barley for Boortmalt and who want to squeeze the extra value out of their crop. It pays significantly more than growing feeding barley.
“Our goal is to put as much into the growers’ pockets as we can by making sure as much of their barley acreage that they’re willing to give us goes into malting barley and as much of that passes for malt as possible at the best yield and with the lowest cost of production.
“I don’t want to see the tillage industry dying out or being decimated. If we don’t collectively, as an industry, get behind these things and push to try and figure out new ways of adding value to what we produce and grow premium crops, we’re not going to be able to compete with, ultimately, dairy and all of the other challenges that we’re facing.
“We as an industry can’t carry on just growing barley and wheat to feed to cattle, pigs, sheep and chickens. We need new strings to our bow because this is not viable. We’ve an opportunity in the north-east to capture some of the value the distilling and brewing industries are putting back into the economy. We’re not offering the perfect solution, but it’s an improvement on the status quo. In my eyes, Brexit poses a far bigger threat to our animal feed business than it does to the malt business,” James adds.
The Loughran family’s other enterprise, Leinster Environmentals, provides the farming community of counties Louth, Meath and Dublin with a complete collection and recycling service for their waste farm plastics. This service includes the operation of several Bring Centres in the area and a farm collection service for those unable to attend a Bring Centre. Materials accepted for recycling include silage bale wrap and silage pit covers, small fertiliser and feed bags, bulk fertiliser and feed bags, chemical containers as well as netting and twine.
A licenced IFFPG (Irish Farm Film Producers’ Group) contractor, Leinster Environmentals aims to provide local farmers with the best possible farm plastic recycling service. At all times, the service is swift, efficient, professional and competitively priced. By availing of these services, a farmer can rest assured that they will have all of the necessary paperwork in relation to the recycling of farm plastics when an inspection is carried out.
Here’s to the next 40 years of this successful family business!
Loughran’s Stores Ltd
Telephone: +353 (0)42 9322041
Email: james[email protected]
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 3, June/July 2019