Over-production means gloomy outlook for malting barley

Over production across Europe last year, together with a fall in beer sales, means there is enough quality barley in the system to last until January 2011, according to Bob King, commercial director of the Crisp Malting Group.

“It’s a much more competitive market now than it has been in recent years,” he told the HGCA malting barley workshop in Bury St Edmunds this week. “Quality will be absolutely critical when it comes to selling the 2010 crop. Any recreational planting this spring will do nothing but damage to the malting barley market.”

Growers with storage should make good use of it, he advised. “There will be some very cheap barley around at harvest, as the maltsters won’t be buying any more than they have to. Malting activity is closely linked to brewing demand.”

Spring barley is preferred to winter, added Mr King. “There simply isn’t any call for winter barley, except from regional brewers, and all the recent breeding progress has been with the spring crop. In England, there’s a particular requirement for spring barley in the 1.6-1.7 nitrogen range, for lager production.”

Despite the somewhat gloomy outlook for this harvest, Mr King was adamant that the long-term prospects for East Anglian malting barley were good.

“The industry still consumes large quantities of quality barley. However, the problem for everyone in the chain at the moment is getting the big brewers to make commitments.”

Tipple has become the dominant variety, replacing Optic, he continued. “Quench doesn’t seem to have taken off, so if you’re planning to grow it this year, make sure you’ve got a customer. And the latest variety, Propino, is still two years behind.”

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