30 November 2001

Barley estimates poor

HARVEST 2002 is likely to yield the smallest barley crop for 40 years and growers are being urged not to abandon the spring crop.

However, farmers should not read too much into that in terms of premiums, said traders and maltsters gathered at NIAB in Cambridge to judge the Institute & Guild of Brewing national malting barley competition of England and Wales this week.

"We could be looking at the smallest UK barley crop since 1962," said Michael Banks of Banks Cargill. "But with the mix of varieties these days – especially the winters such as Pearl and Regina – there is more malt than feed. Therefore there should be enough to go round."

Last spring saw an 84% increase in spring barley in England and Wales. This offset a 20% slump in winter barley area, producing a UK barley crop of 6.4m tonnes, similar to harvest 2000.

This year, despite a more open autumn, winter barley area is unlikely to have recovered to 1999/2000 levels, given the likely increase in wheat sown, said Mr Banks. And the spring barley area could be much smaller due to disappointing malting premiums.

If harvest 2002 produces poor quality malting barley, the UK could become an importer next autumn. While that would boost prices short-term, in the long-term it would be bad for the UK malting industry, he warned. &#42