23 June 1995

Export prospects look very good, says IoB

UK BARLEY growers are poised to reap the rewards of an exceptionally strong market for malt – and there is no shortage of good varieties to help them do so.

That upbeat message is from Robin Pirie of the Institute of Brewing. "The prospects look very good." Gross margins for winter malting barley will compare very well with first wheats next year, he suggests, with spring maltsters "just a notch behind".

Key reason, he explains, is fast growing demand from overseas, notably China – already the second biggest beer producer in the world.

Highlighting the potential Mr Pirie says: "In the UK we each drink about 100 litres a year. As yet the Chinese consume only eight litres a year. But there are 1.2bn of them! I estimate that worldwide an extra 500,000t a year of malt will be required from now until the end of the century." Halcyon has served growers well over the past decade; an estimated 2m tonnes being used by maltsters in that time. But with five new varieties gaining IoB provisional approval for 1995/96, growers have several good alternatives, says Mr Pirie.

"The bulk of the export market still looks for spring varieties where we have got Cooper and Optic getting provisional approval." There is also Delibes, newly approved for the north-east and north-west only, but of particular interest to distillers.

Fanfare and Melanie are winter-sown additions to the IoB list. "It shows there is something beyond Halcyon and Pipkin," he comments. "And there is quite a tranche of good varieties beyond those, including Tankard and Trinity in the springs and Angora, Gleam and Regina winter varieties. There are a whole lot coming through that look very useful."