Think global, act local
International companies purchase their malting barley on the global market where the prices for malting barley depend on the levels of supply and demand. As a matter of conviction, Stiegl owner Heinrich Dieter Kiener buys the malting barley directly from the producer group Zistersdorf (EGZ) in the Lower Austrian Weinviertel region.
This is why Stiegl chief, together with master brewer Christian Pöpperl, has signed a contract with EGZ Farmers (producer group). The agreement between Stiegl and the EGZ includes a guaranteed annual purchase quantity of brewing barley.
Every year in September, the prices for many grain cultures are set at the Exchange for Agricultural Products in Vienna. “Price dumping in the barley market means that many farmers switch to producing the more lucrative corn as a foodstuff, or rape as a biofuel,” explains Franz Bauer, managing partner of the EGZ.
An assessment by Agrar Markt Austria (AMA) shows that crop area for summer brewing barley in Austria dropped from less than 100,000 hectares in 2008 to approx. 63,000 hectares in 2013.
For Stiegl’s master brewer Christian Pöpperl, continuation of this development would have devastating consequences: “The worst outcome would be if farmers stopped growing food and agricultural products had to be imported.”
“Barley pass” for traceability
The producer group Zisterdorf was established in 1988 as a non-profit organisation in the Weinviertel. Its 300 or so farmers, whose association is also ISO-certified, have a particular passion for environmentally-friendly, natural agriculture in the Pannonian climate region. Above all, the farmers want the value of their brewing barley – also a “cultural asset” in the region – to keep growing. Traceability is especially important to EGZ farmers, achieved by labelling: “From the stalk to the bottle”.
"Velvety-smooth on the tongue and with a harmonious finish, the ‘Wildshuter Sortenspiel’ leaves a lasting impression."
According to a survey of the market institute, the average Austrian expects that farmers get fair prices for local products. Not only quality and freshness do play a vital role but also the working conditions, the processing and completion. In actual fact, more commitment is demanded when it comes to animal welfare as well as creation and safeguarding of jobs in the region.
More commitment is also called for where issues such as production in harmony with nature (82%), GMO-free products (79%), short transport routes (87%), waste prevention or recycling (85%) as well as the use of renewable sources of energy (69%) are concerned. "We started to address these issues many years ago“, claims master brewer Pöpperl.
In addition to safeguarding local agriculture and excellent quality, the company’s commitment to using Austrian ingredients involves another important aspect: short transport distances. EGZ farmers take the barley to the Stadlauer Malzfabrik (STAMAG) for malting, which is just a few kilometres away. STAMAG then loads the barley malt onto freight cars that proceed directly to the brewery. As a result, delivery to Salzburg takes place 100% by rail.
Stiegl manager Heinrich Dieter Kiener adds, "We are opposed to food speculation. With us farmers know when, how much and what they get paid for. "We want to do our bit to ensure that the Austrian barley farmers can make a good living rather than just scraping by."