Barley sales fears

14 August 1998

Barley sales fears

FARMERS are still putting too much emphasis on yield when choosing a malting barley variety.

According to a survey of growers, commissioned by New Farm Crops, 43% said yield was the most important factor when selecting a variety. Only 7% mentioned choosing one that gave them best profit.

But this will change, says New Farm Crops managing director Stephen Smith. "You must have access to markets rather than a big heap of something you cant sell."

It is a trend more evident among wheat producers, who tend to go for maximum market access varieties – which may not be at the top of the yield league table. And it is a trend which will be quickened by the on-going drive to cut inputs and this seasons depressed grain market.

Values are, however, more likely to rise than fall, says Mr Smith. It only takes one big difficulty in the malting barley growing areas of Australia, Europe, Canada, the US and China to cause a shortage.

The survey also showed that 62% of growers made no use of contracts. This, too, will increase, predicts Mr Smith, with more long-term, relationships rather than just annual contracts.

But you cant be in a win-win situation in a contract, he adds. "Farmers say contracts are vital when price movement is downwards – but dont want one when it is upwards."

Growing malting barley will, meanwhile, gain in popularity compared with feed, as low prices mean the relative premium is bigger. Currently, says Mr Smith, the differential is at least £10/t – and in some cases much bigger.

Despite the preoccupation with yield, more that 80% said they would not try a new variety until it has full or provisional support from the Institute of Brewing.

Buyers and maltsters, meanwhile, were almost totally preoccupied with quality. And, although only one mentioned the need for a variety to have good agronomic attributest, half raised concerns about the continuity of supply.

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