Canada’s share of malt barley market shrinking


Winnipeg | CNS Canada –– Canada has historically been one of the world’s top malt barley exporters, but its share of the global market is shrinking, Cargill Malt’s Lorelle Selinger told the Wild Oats Grainworld conference.

A poor-quality crop produced in Canada in 2014-15 is one reason importers have started sourcing their malt supplies from other countries. North America has even started importing the commodity from Europe to make up for the lack of good-quality barley in Canada.

Recent figures show Canada now exports about 900,000 tonnes of malt barley per year, below Australia at two million tonnes and Argentina at one million, Selinger said.

Argentina’s production is likely to start tapering off, which should give Canada a little bit of that share back, Selinger said. What Argentina produces and exports will influence how much Canada exports going forward.

Global demand for malting barley remains steady, and though world production has dropped off in recent years, supplies haven’t found themselves to be extremely tight.

“Overall, we are in a comfortable place for global production” and stocks, said Selinger, the company’s North American merchandising manager.

Canada’s barley production has also been on a steady decline, though domestic demand continues to rise, which has also contributed to fewer exports of the commodity.

One driving force behind stronger local demand is the growing number of craft breweries, which generally use very high malt content barley for their products.

Data show there were about 400 licensed craft brewers in North America in 1990. Currently, there are more than 3,700 and that number is expected to swell above 4,000, Selinger said.

Generally good prices for malting barley this year could lead to an increase in Canadian acres of about five per cent, Selinger said. Lower values for competing grains such as wheat are also making barley a more attractive crop to grow.

Statistics Canada data show the 2014-15 area seeded to barley totaled 5.9 million acres.

— Terryn Shiells writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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