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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 19:54 GMT
Whisky prices anger Scots farmers
Whisky protest
Diageo is one of the world's largest whisky firms
One of the world's largest whisky companies has been lobbied by farmers in Scotland over the "inadequate" price they are paid for malt and barley.

The protest, arranged by the Scottish National Farmers Union (NFU), was held outside the Edinburgh offices of Diageo, which makes Bell's, Johnnie Walker and J&B whiskies.

A "Save Our Scotch" message in a whisky bottle was delivered by the demonstrators to the Scottish headquarters of the multinational in Edinburgh Park, South Gyle.

The farmers want all whisky manufacturers to guarantee grain prices with fixed price contracts.

Whisky protest
A "Save Our Scotch" message was delivered

They say such a move would allow them to calculate whether growing malt and barley would be profitable at an early stage in the farming calendar.

NFU spokesman David Houghton said that whisky manufacturers in Scotland were ignoring the plight of local farmers.

He said: "We want to highlight the fact that current prices are inadequate.

"What we want from the companies is an early indication as to whether we can make any money from these crops and if we cannot, then we can decide to grow something else.

"I farm in the Highlands and my main crop is malting barley and this is the fourth year running that I have not been able to make a profit."

'Image in tatters'

Mr Houghton added that it would be a "tragedy" if whisky firms were to begin sourcing grain for the drink from abroad.

He said: "We would be extremely concerned because if the raw materials of Scotch aren't grown in Scotland then the image of Scotch whisky is in tatters."

But whisky industry figures said they thought the union was wrong to target them.

Tractor in field
The farmers want fixed price contracts

Peter Smith, of Diageo, said he was "mystified" by the protest and insisted local farmers got a good deal from whisky producers.

He said: "We are sympathetic to the farmers and we stand by our policy of buying as much as possible from Scottish farms.

"Last year, we bought in excess of 180,000 tonnes of malting barley from them, which is 86% of our annual requirement.

"We are mystified as to why they have targeted us, particularly since we are fully paid up members of the NFU."

Scotch Whisky Producers Association spokesman Campbell Evans agreed with Mr Smith, adding that he thought the NFU was blaming the industry for wider problems within agriculture.

He said: "Scotch whisky companies have long-term contracts with Scottish suppliers and because of that we support something like 10% of agricultural jobs in this country.

"We are supporting the local economy but what we cannot do is control the weather and world prices."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Louise Batchelor reports
"The union's message is targeted at the whole industry"
See also:

12 Jun 02 | Scotland
10 Jun 02 | Scotland
01 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
01 Mar 02 | Scotland
28 Oct 01 | Scotland
17 Sep 01 | Scotland
02 Aug 01 | Business
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