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Heritage Cereals Focus of EU Meeting in Galway

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Partners from 11 EU countries met recently in Galway for a three-day meeting of CERERE – Cereal Renaissance in Rural Europe, funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.

Representing universities, farmers, entrepreneurs and heritage societies, the CERERE project identifies novel, practical ways to support the cultivation and market promotion of heritage cereals. The CERERE’s Annual Meeting took place from 18-21 November.

Speaking about the market potential of heritage cereals, Teagasc post-doctoral researcher Dr John Hyland explained: “Ancient grains are no longer a niche product. Larger companies including Johnston, Mooney & O’Brien and Cheerios benefit from using the label ‘ancient grains’ when incorporating cereals such as spelt, emmer and eincorn. Our research across Europe has identified smaller producers who benefit also by producing more localised varieties. These appeal to consumers seeking novel beers, crackers, baked goods and breakfast cereals – many of which have nutritional advantages. An important factor is that the introduction of increasingly diverse varieties – sold by producers to consumers in local food chains – can also potentially support biodiversity and address other important public concerns such as climate change”.

Lead researcher for Teagasc, Dr Áine Macken-Walsh, highlighted the importance of sharing different forms of expertise for successfully establishing heritage cereals. “Consumer insights, practical production knowledge, science and business acumen are crucial for small producers to successfully bring new products to the market. Our role in CERERE has practically facilitated that sharing of expertise to happen – it’s a highly social process."

CERERE has commissioned, through Teagasc, art projects to demonstrate their contribution to innovation processes. Speaking at a special CERERE event for the Tulca Festival for Visual Arts, Dr Macken-Walsh explained: “The arts are powerful in stimulating creativity – this event has attracted diverse people together to focus on the important topic of heritage cereals. Artistic representations of heritage cereals are provoking new ideas, challenging traditional beliefs & norms, and widening social, cultural and economic possibilities in people’s minds – this is all enormously resourceful of resilience”.

CERERE is a €2 million three-year project funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme (Rural Renaissance). For more detail on project and the the partner organisations see www.cerere2020.eu