Malting barley premiums are expected to range from £30-£40/tonne over feed barley prices this year, the highest premium for a decade.

Farmers at a workshop on 16 January run by the HGCA and SAC heard that last harvest had been a real wake-up call for maltsters and distillers who were now in listening mode and keen to ensure they had local supplies.

Over the past 10 years, the malting barley premium had averaged around £11/tonne over feed barley prices, said Julian Bell of SAC’s rural business unit.

However, the impact of dry weather during the growing season and very wet weather at harvest in central and eastern Europe, affected supplies and highlighted the need for local sourcing, he said.

This message has got through to the maltsters and distillers who are more willing to listen and accept the need to pay farmers a better price to ensure supply.

Mr Bell urged growers to look carefully at the small print of malting barley contracts and not to be blinded by the headline price per tonne ignoring potentially punitive deductions for screenings, moisture and nitrogen.

In many cases the practice of tying deductions into contracts, said John Picken, chairman of NFU Scotland’s combinable crops committee, was “outdated and punitive”.

Mr Picken, who runs 500 arable acres in Fife, said it was vital the industry ensured the new willingness of the maltsters to listen had long-term benefits and was not a one-year wonder.