Scotch malt whisky is made from two key ingredients: barley and water. To be Scotch Whisky, the spirit must mature in oak casks in Scotland for at least three years. Barley is affected by a range of diseases that can cause considerable damage and loss of yield and quality. More than 90% of Scotland’s barley acres are treated with fungicides. Policymakers in the EU have developed new rules regarding the use of pesticides which is reducing the number of active ingredients available for farmers to use. Reduced availability of fungicides for Scottish barley farmers threatens the Scotch Whisky industry.
“Recent research on the prospects of the Scottish malting barley sector as perceived by a variety of actors in the supply chain, including plant breeders, growers, merchants, maltsters and distillers, has shown that pesticide legislation and environmental concerns are expected to negatively influence the competitiveness of the malting barley sector in Scotland, particularly in the mid-term future (2020/2025).
It is not inconceivable that tighter regulation regarding pesticide approval and use may also result in greater demand from the whisky industry for imported malting barley of high quality in order to meet the industry’s demand for malting barley, especially during shortfalls in the supply of Scottish barley. Concerns about the possibility of an increasing reliance on imported barley have been raised by Scottish politicians and in the media, carrying a notion of pride associated with the idea that Scotch malt whisky should be ‘100% Scottish’.
If some or all pesticides were banned from use, farmers in Scotland would struggle to produce the same amount and quality of barley. Therefore, more barley would have to be imported.”
Authors: Glenk, K., et al.
Affiliation: Scottish Agricultural College
Title: Preferences of Scotch malt whisky consumers for changes in pesticide use and origin of barley.
Source: Food Policy. 2012. 37:719-731.