27 March 1998

What does the future hold for malting barley?

Miserable margins from last

years malting barley left

many growers sceptical

about the crop for 1998.

Dual-purpose varieties

helped delay the feed v malt

decision. But choices are

now being made, as we

report

VARIETIES with malting potential account for over half of winter barley area being grown. And according to NIAB seed certification figures, dual-purpose varieties Regina, Fanfare and Gleam occupy 39% of the total barley area.

Whether those varieties will be managed for a malting sample or feed is the question growers, maltsters and merchants are all asking.

On everything other than the best malting ground, growers should go for yield, says Michael Banks of Banks Agririculture. "At prices as low as these, farmers cannot afford to risk reduced yields and fail to get a premium."

More Fanfare is on good malting ground and will be managed for the malting market, as will Pipkin and Halcyon, he believes.

For David Neale of Dalgety, the debate centres on Regina, which alone takes 22% of the winter barley area by seed certification figures.

"We are hearing from all regions that the variety is being pushed for yield. If this is the case, as little as a quarter of the malting variety area could produce malting samples. The maltster could be faced with a limited choice."

But Mr Banks rejects such suggestions of a malting shortage. "We need an export trade for Regina and Gleam and with the pound at 3.06DM/£ that is a tough job."

Growers that took out buy-back contracts are managing crops for malting, Mr Neale adds. As a percentage of forward feed values, the premiums are relatively high, he notes.

Berkshire and Oxfordshire ADAS adviser Andrew Chell echoes Mr Neales comments. "Most people are going for yield with Regina unless theyve got a specific buy-back," he says. Fanfare is generally being managed for malting and Gleam is somewhere in between, he believes. "It is a difficult market for growers to react to."