Prairie malt barley crop’s quality still up in air

CNS Canada — Questions are being asked over how much barley in Western Canada will be good enough to meet malting standards in 2014-15.

This year’s crop was already going to be smaller than last year’s, said Brian Otto, past-president with the Western Barley Growers Association. Statistics Canada estimated overall barley production at 7.2 million tonnes, but Otto believes it will be less than that.

“I think we’re at 6.8 to 7.2 million metric tonnes of production this year,” he said, noting the Prairie crop was over eight million last year.

Wet weather further hampered production, with snow falling on crops north of Calgary in September.

“A lot of that barley was in question. I think school’s still out on it. I think they’re trying to get a handle on the quality of it,” he said, but added the damage from the snow may not be as bad as initially feared.

Warm weather has allowed for good harvest progress more recently — and more should be known about the state of this year’s crop, he said, once the harvest is complete.

The area north of Lethbridge will be especially critical to determining the Prairie crop’s quality, he added.

“Barley acreage in Western Canada is down, so the amount of barley to select from is going to be less,” said Otto, who farms east of Warner, Alta.

Bids for two-row varieties in the Prairies now range from $4.50 to $5.50 a bushel, with the top bids found in southern Alberta, according to participants.

Prices have improved since January and February, he said, but not to the level they were a year and a half ago.

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

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