By FW staff

A HUGE crop of malting barley is forecast this harvest, and a big export effort will be needed to balance the books, says one expert.

The forecast surplus is 1.26 million tonnes – more than twice this years figure of 573,000t, Peter Crisford, managing director of the Wiltshire-based Malting Barley Company told a recent HGCA Inverness conference. This will also keep prices under pressure.

Although poor weather had reduced autumn sowings, the percentage of crops destined for malting had risen from 24% to 34% in England and Wales, and from 13% to 34% in Scotland. The surplus would increase from 336,600t to almost 460,000t.

“The difficulties with autumn sowing will also mean a huge increase in spring barley plantings, with an extra 5% or more in England and Wales and 20% more in Scotland,” said Mr Crisford. This could produce more than 2m tonnes, leaving a surplus of 803,000t.

Forecasts of four years ago suggesting an annual 4% increase in world demand for malt had not materialised, and there would continue to be severe pressure on prices, he added.

However, Chris Toft of Cargill reckons it is too early to call. “Everything is waterlogged out there. It will be towards the ends of February before growers are ready to work their seed-beds.

But if this weather continues, they are going to be tossing a coin to decide whether to put their ground into oilseeds or set-aside.”