The spring barley area in Scotland is falling to a dangerously low level, according to Frontier‘s Ian Keith, chairman of the Agricultural Industries Confederation Scottish arable committee.
Scottish government figures suggest winter wheat and oilseed rape sowings in Scotland are both up by 10% this season, which could reduce the land available for spring malting barley by 13,000ha (32,123 acres).
“I’m not convinced the figures are correct and we don’t know how much grass is being ploughed up this spring for barley,” said Mr Keith. “But it is indicative of the trend and it still means spring barley plantings are at a dangerously low level.
“Carry-over stocks of malting barley are at the lowest level ever at a time when Scottish whisky distillers are keen to ramp up production.”
Mr Keith called for the trade, maltsters and distillers to get together to work out a strategy to give growers confidence to grow more barley for the malting market.
Many Scottish farmers have given up growing spring barley because of low prices and their treatment by maltsters when stocks were high.
Some maltsters, alarmed by the decline in acreage, are now offering three-year contracts linked to the wheat futures market, but most contracts are on a year-to-year basis.
“The trade will have to offer incentives on spring barley to secure a sufficient supply of malting barley for distillers,” said Mr Keith. “We need more transparency in contracts to give growers the comfort of an assured market.”