Farmers encouraged to focus on gluten-free oats

Farmers encouraged to focus on gluten-free oats
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A new drive is under way to encourage farmers in Cork, Waterford and Tipperary with the capability to grow gluten-free oats to consider giving over acreage to this growing agri-business.

Glanbia Ireland plans to double the acreage given over to gluten-free oats amid increasing demand among consumers for products made with this crop - and farmers in the counties of Cork,. Waterford and Tipperary, are encouraged to see whether their land is suitable for cultivating it:

“Gluten-free oats is a premium grain and delivers better opportunities for farmers. We plan to double the acreage, albeit off of a small base, to keep pace with growing demands for gluten-free produce,” says Glanbia Ireland’s Head of Grains John Kealy.

The crop attracts a premium of €40/tonne over green wheat price, with all harvesting and transport carried out by Glanbia Ireland using dedicated gluten-free machinery.

All seeds are purchased through Glanbia Ireland as the crop requires extremely strict specifications to deliver food-grade gluten-free produce. Up to now, Glanbia Ireland’s gluten-free oat crops were mainly grown in the Kildare, Laois and Carlow regions.

However, the Premium Grains team is looking to extend the land-base sown to gluten-free outside of this area in cases where farms can meet certain criteria.

The move comes amid growing consumer demand for gluten-free products such as gluten-free oats which are used in everything from gluten-free muesli, to gluten-free cereal bars, gluten-free porridge and gluten-free porridge bread mix.

Gluten-free products are sought after by people with coeliac disease, a lifelong autoimmune disease for which currently, the only long-term solution is for the patient to eliminate all sources of gluten from their diet, in effect shifting to a gluten-free diet.

Glanbia Ireland’s Grain Quality Operations Manager Mariea O’Toole said: “We are looking for farmers in our catchment area, which stretches from Co Meath through Cork, Wexford and Laois, and takes in Cork, Tipperary and Waterford.

We’re looking for farmers with suitable rotations on their land to suit this crop which has to be sown either after a non-cereal break crop or grass.

However, Ms O’Toole emphasised, there were specific requirements that a potential grower’s land had to meet before it would be considered suitable to sow this crop, such as having low levels of wild oats or invasive brome which is a grass weed with a gluten content:

“It has to follow a break crop, such as oilseed, rape, peas, beans, fodder beet or maize or green vegetables - anything except wheat or barley.” Other factors that would have to be taken into account included farm size and field access, as dedicated gluten-free machinery would have to be brought to the area for harvest, she added.

“Farmers whose farms would meet these criteria should contact Glanbia’s local tillage business manager or customer service, for consideration to be included in this programme.”

“Oats are naturally gluten-free, but the way they are grown and managed is very important - for example we use 100% gluten-free seeds and a closed-loop supply chain to ensure that the oats remain gluten-free and there is not, for example any contamination from wheat or barley.”

Gluten-free oats, she said was a premium product which was harvested and transported by Glanbia, she added.

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