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Spring Malting Barley – April 2024

Malting Barley Update

To All Growers of Malting Barley,

What a dreadful few months of weather we have endured for what seems like an eternity, the Met office have confirmed that we have had the wettest 20 months since records began in 1871. However, and albeit very gradually, it does appear to be drying up. Just in the nick of time as we approach mid-April, no doubt it will have implications for crops as we go through the 2024 growing season. We seem to break weather records regularly these days, March is globally the hottest ever on record and we will break more as we go through 2024, this will have large implications for yield, quality and ultimately price direction for this year’s crop.

Lighter and the more traditional malting barley soils in the east and the south have been sown or are being sown as things dry up, however large parts of the Midlands and further north are a long way off and Scotland still endures very wet weather. Progress in Europe has also been slow, France still has around 10% or so to do, although progress is now being made in Denmark.

There is a lot going on as always in the world of malting barley, please find below what I hope is some useful information:


Last year we saw a big difference between February and April sown barley in terms of yield and quality. This year will see the majority of the crop sown in April and therefore it would be prudent to consider the following if you still have crop to sow:

  • Increase sowing rate to 425-450 seeds m/2 subject to soil type and seedbed conditions.
  • Reduce applied nitrogen to max 130kg/ha (if you usually apply circa 150kg/ha).
  • Apply as much nitrogen as you can to the seed bed and apply all by 3 leaf stage.

With potentially warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, emergence will be swift as will early growth and therefore you will need to be pro-active with regard to PGRs in due course.

As always, the key to the success of this year’s crop will be how well the crop goes in and the ensuing weather conditions throughout the growing season.

The Markets

The malting barley industry is still eyeing a large crop from the theoretically increased 2024 European harvest, the reality now will be somewhat different given the wet conditions. Sowings have been delayed throughout Europe and Scandinavia and of course here in the UK. There is still plenty of time for a benign growing season to produce good crops, however it is very likely that yield will be compromised from late April/May sowings and much of the extra area in the UK is not going to be grown on land that supports malting barley quality. Therefore, malting premiums should remain more than respectable.

It is clear that Europe will have a deficit of malting barley from the 2023 harvest which is likely to have an impact on availability of barley in the 2024-2025 marketing year. Last autumn there was a large carry over of the vintage 2022 crop due to its superb quality, there will be little or no carryover this season. The 2023 malting barley crop has caused lots of issues in the malthouse and whilst the industry would not want to carry over large tonnages of a ‘problem’ crop, any issues experienced during the growing season or if the 24 crop is dormant (like 23) will have large ramifications. This is emphasised by the fact that both Australian and Argentinian malting barley will be shipped into Europe on panamax vessels prior to the seasons end (no questions please around scope 3, sustainability etc!). The 23-24 deficit will serve to keep premiums high but they would have been far higher if the demand for brewing malt had not taken a huge hit over the past year. Beer has become a luxury item in many countries, with huge inflationary pressures increasing the cost of a pint especially in the ‘on -trade’, coinciding with consumers cutting back due to the cost-of-living crisis, not a good combination. Health issues are also leading to a reduction in consumption of alcoholic drinks, leading to a rise in no or lo alcohol beers. This double whammy has seen a huge drop in demand equating to around 3 million tonnes of malt. With some big sporting events during this year and a gradual recovery from the global downturn, we are hoping to see a rise in consumption of beer and therefore malt, fingers crossed.

At the same time the distilling industry continues to go from strength to strength with a lot of distilleries looking to expand their volumes largely driven by consumption in Asia, this in turn has led to large potential increases in malting capacity in Scotland. With global weather extremes and impending SFI alternatives there are some good opportunities for malting barley growers in England going forward, even more reason to keep growing malting barley and the importance of sticking to dual purpose varieties.


Laureate continues its dominance of the UK market and has proved to be a good, robust variety over the years with good performance in the field, the malthouse, brewery and distillery. Tennyson is the next dual-purpose variety coming through which should get full approval in May of this year, it is currently under test. Whilst its infield performance is up with Laureate, it has improved malting quality over other varieties.

  • Planet has pretty much run its course now.
  • Skyway has very limited market access.
  • SY Signet looks like it has some unique malting properties and is currently under test.

Whilst we are in a ‘eggs in one basket’ scenario with Laureate it looks like some other varieties are coming through. Some of which will be on display at our summer trials evening at Saxley Farm, Abbots Ann, details to follow.

Malting Industry News

Malteries Soufflet have recently completed their buyout of United Malt, who owned The Bairds malting Group. This means that Soufflet will control the English maltings at Witham and Burton on Trent as well as the Bairds malting plants in Scotland at Arbroath, Pencaitland and Inverness. They are planning on the second phase of the Inverness plant to accommodate a further 80,000t of barley capacity. The purchase of United Malt takes Soufflet to the worlds biggest maltster, making a total of 3.7 million tonnes of malt from 4.44 million tonnes of barley.

Richardsons Milling from Canada have recently purchased The Crisp Malting Group which has meant the funds are available to undertake large capacity projects in Norfolk and Scotland, but also closing down the rather old plant at Mistley in Essex.

Holland Malt have recently announced their ability to hit zero emissions at their two malting plants in Holland, worth taking a look at their website

Simpsons Malt have planning permission to build a new plant on Speyside to service the ever-growing malt whisky market, plans seem to be on hold at present, watch this space.

We have another extremely interesting year in prospect and happy to field any queries you may have; we will keep you posted with all things malting barley throughout the growing season.

Jonathan Arnold