Malting barley increase could secure exports

25 June 1999

Malting barley increase could secure exports

MALTING barley has taken almost three-quarters of the total barley area this season, according to British Cereal Exports.

The trend should help to secure markets abroad resulting in more long-term security for growers, says BCE manager Rachel Walker.

"The proportion of malting barley has been steadily increasing," says Miss Walker. "Just under 50% of the crop was in malting varieties four years ago compared with 73% today."

This area should produce over 4.75m tonnes. Given a good harvest, this could help annual UK malting barley exports bounce back to the 400,000t level seen in the first half of this decade, she believes.

In each of the past two years, export volumes have slumped to 100,000t due to poor harvests in Scotland and skinned kernels in spring barley.

The BCEs latest publication, Barley Exports – The Growers Guide, highlights booming global demand for malting barley. Production is set to increase by a quarter over the next decade, Miss Walker predicts.

However, UK growers still plant malting barley looking for good premiums, and this seasons area figures could be misleading, warns Penny Somervell of Banks Agriculture.

Poor weather last autumn forced many farmers to grow spring crops, she believes. And much winter barley consists of dual-purpose varieties, many of which may be pushed for feed given current low premiums.

Sowings are likely to fall next autumn. "And consumers are not giving any signals at the moment. We could see a further reduction in winter drillings. If spring drillings then return to more normal levels, the UK could almost become a net importer of malting barley by harvest 2000. Its tragic." &#42

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