Malt barley acreage predicted to increase

Harvest weather so far this fall may cost barley end-users seeking malting-grade product this year, the CMBTC warns. (Dave Bedard photo)

MarketsFarm — Industry experts expect malt barley acreage in Western Canada to increase by about five per cent this year, supported by strong prices for both feed and malt.

“All indications suggest we’ll see an increase in malt barley, as well as feed,” confirmed Peter Watts of the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre.

In light of China’s consummate ban of Canadian canola, some worry other commodities will be treated similarly. However, there aren’t yet any indications that that is the case for malt barley.

According to Statistics Canada, China’s demand for barley and malt is expected to increase steadily due to China’s lower grain production due to urbanization and limited farmland.

“It’s impossible to predict what will happen but there aren’t any indications that Canadian malt barley will be shunned to the same extent as Canadian canola,” he said.

Though China has a history of importing the majority of its barley and malt from Australia, Canadian-grown malt is steadily increasing its market share.

Australia grew 60 per cent of China’s imported barley in 2016, while Canada accounted for 20 per cent. However, given Australia’s inclement weather in recent years, Canada has gained some of the market share in China.

“Australia had a severe drought which curtailed their production significantly,” Watts said. “If they return to normal crop levels they’ll be back competitive on the global market.

“Malt barley production depends heavily on harvest conditions, particularly weather, so we’ll have to wait and see what sort of supplies there are.”

Aside from increased acreage, Watts hopes to see diversity in varieties of malt barley.

“As an industry, we’re looking to transition to new varieties,” said Watts. CDC Copeland and AC Metcalfe have dominated the industry for almost 20 years.

“We expect AC Metcalfe acreage to decline as new varieties increase,” he added.

“We’re looking for these varieties to be produced in more substantial quantities and become a mainstay in commercial systems in Canada and abroad.”

— Marlo Glass writes for MarketsFarm, a Glacier FarmMedia division specializing in grain and commodity market analysis and reporting.

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