Despite the upsurge in the use of distillery by-products as fuel for bio-energy displacing its use as feed for local livestock, the whisky industry has signalled that it will move to ensure this traditional outlet doesn’t fall by the wayside.
However, following talks with distillers earlier this week, NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said that “the hard bit” of changes to the supply and demand landscape was likely to be a shift in the prices of what had once been viewed as a single-outlet by-product.
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Stating that “things have changed”, McCornick said that the energy sector had created a new year-round outlet for these valuable products – which had the additional marketing benefit for distillers of making them look “greener”.
“Like agriculture, the energy industry is in receipt of taxpayers’ support which makes it more viable and able to pay a competitive price for products which have, for generations, been a mainstay of diets in our livestock industry,” said McCornick.
He added that while it could be argued that the use of these products as feedstuffs on farms was equally as green, this was more difficult to quantify – and distillers had made commercial decisions to invest capital.
He said that research commissioned by the Scottish Government would deliver a better understanding of the relative merits of using distillery co-products as animal feed or for bio-energy plants.
However, McCornick said that the meeting had taken a step forward in ensuring supplies of distillery by-products were made available to the livestock sector – with guarantees offered to make this happen, although a new pricing structure was likely.
“The market has moved from an oversupply to a demand-led position,” he said. Other options being considered included forward buying or ordering, the creation of buying groups and looking at the availability of on-farm storage.
Also involved in the talks, Alastair Nairn of the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association said that the recent meetings had helped develop a greater understanding of the requirements of the respective industries:
“We were pleased to hear the whisky industry express its support for the livestock sector and the importance in achieving a balance between the supply of animal feed and the demand from livestock producers.”