Look to China, malting barley growers told

By Johann Tasker

CHINESE beer drinkers are an untapped market with massive potential for UK farmers who grow the best malting barley in the world, it was claimed today.

“What were trying to do is get a share of that market,” said Barclay Forrest, chairman of British Cereal Exports.

The UK currently exports about 400,000 tonnes of malting barley. But speaking at the Cereals 98 event in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, Mr Forrest urged arable farmers to consider growing even more for the export market.

Beer production in the Far East is soaring as brewers try to quench the thirst of Chinese drinkers in a market which is expected to grow by 8-9% this year alone.

East Asian beer production is currently doubling every four years or so. It is forecast to reach 500 million hectolitres of beer a year by the end of the Millennium and the region needs more malting barley to help meet demand, Mr Forrest said.

To date, the UK has had little success in non-European markets. But a British Cereal Exports delegation has recently returned from a trade mission in China where they met with a welcome reception. Farm minister Jack Cunningham also attended and the UK Government has pledged to support the export drive.

“They want us in the export market and theyll help push us in that direction,” Mr Forrest said. “The future of this industry depends on exports.”

The most suitable malting varieties for export outside the European Union are winter or spring Chariot and Optic, Mr Forrest added. But winter Regina, Gleam and Melanie are likely to be acceptable if the price is right.

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