Post-meeting, Scottish farmers confident of future feed supply from whisky association

By David Anderson

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/zmurciuk-k
© iStock/zmurciuk-k

Related tags Anaerobic digestion

Scottish farmers say they are confident of hammering out an agreement with the Scottish whisky industry amid concerns about a shortage of distillery by-products for animal feed.

Earlier this week, representative from the Scottish Tenant Farmers’ Association (STFA) met with the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) in Edinburgh.

The STFA had become increasingly concerned about a shortage of animal feed created from distillery-by products.

Some farmers in parts of Scotland are heavily dependent on the distillery-by products. The feed ingredients are consumed by livestock in the form of grain, draff and pot ale and provide a useful source of protein and are relatively cost-effective, said the STFA.

The current shortage has been largely attributed to the whisky industry’s increasing use of anaerobic digestion and biomes plants to turn by-product into energy at the expense of feed for Scottish farmers.

“Over the last two or three years, the supply of [distillery by-products] has been getting more limited,”​ Angus McCall, executive director at the STFA, told FeedNavigator. Instead of selling the by-products, distilleries are using it in anaerobic digesters or biomass plants to generate renewable energy, he added.

Meeting went well

He told us the meeting went well and that he was convinced Scottish farmers would have an adequate supply of distillery-by products going forward.

“The SWA doesn’t want a public spat,” ​he said. “I think they are very conscious of their place in the food chain. They genuinely would like to help and support agriculture.”

The next step, he said, was to coordinate the future distillery products to ensure the by-products were available at the right time of the year and in the right places in Scotland for farmers.

“Distillers remain committed to the supply of high-quality feed to farmers,” ​said Julie Hesketh-Laird, SWA acting chief executive. “We explained [at the meeting] that the new start-up distilleries will increase the number of outlets of draff to everyone’s benefit.

“But the industry needs a range of markets for our by-products, for example to produce energy from AD and biomass. The distilling industry, like other sectors, including the farming sector, invests in these techniques to reduce our carbon footprint and ensure industry sustainability.”

Whisky industry to work with Scottish farmers

“We’ll continue to work with farmers, the Scottish Government, environmental regulators and others to help facilitate supply chain discussions with an interest to balance by-product supply into the UK feeds market and our overall sustainability ambitions,”​ said Hesketh-Laird.

While there are alternative feeds for Scottish farmers, such as soybeans, many ingredients would have to be imported, creating an extra expense.

According to McCall, the shortage fundamentally has been created by a distortion in the market, as the UK government offers incentives for distilleries to process the distillery by-product into energy.

“That is really distorting the market and causing the problem,”​ he said.

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