Search IconClose Icon

Spring Malting Barley – October 2021

Malting Barley News October 2021

Well, malting barley has not been straightforward in the last few years but 2021-2022 looks to take the biscuit with regard to market dynamics, crop availability and ongoing prospects. We will give a brief overview of where we are currently, touch on some external influences and look forward to 2022. We will cover all things malting barley in greater detail at our annual malting barley conference which we are holding this year at Norton Park but have changed the date to Monday 17th January, more on that later.

Crop 2021

In the last week or so reports have emerged as to just how bad the Canadian malting barley crop is with poor yields, very high nitrogen and high screenings being the main issues. This comes on top of a poor French crop and lower yielding Danish & Swedish crops. The Scottish crop has (as always) been of very good quality but with yields a lot lower than last year, which was in itself a record year. So, against a backdrop of very low stocks, increasing malt demand and high feed grain values around the globe, the malting barley situation appears to be very tight.

The English spring barley crop has been one of the highlights of the harvest in many places, with Laureate performing very well in terms of yield and grain nitrogen. One notable feature with pretty much all crops has been the lower specific weights, driven by lack of sunshine. It is worth noting that malting barley is not bought or sold on specific weights. Low specific weights do create issues with lower malt extract (litres alcohol per tonne) and lower stowage rates on vessels but that is something we have to live with and you should not be penalised for it.

Crop in Store

As always there are a few things that need to be highlighted to ensure you keep the crop in top notch order, they are:

Moisture: Another damp, drizzly August has meant lots of crops were cut wet and although should now be dry it is worth monitoring or asking us to re sample to ensure your meters are in tune with our infratec.

Temperatures: Although the opportunities have been rare please do monitor temperatures within your barley bulks and try to get them down to near 10 degrees as soon as you can please.

Ergot: It is proving to be a very bad year for ergot so please be vigilant when on heaps or loading barley as this will save a lot of costs if found on intakes. We can remove ergot over a colour sorter if required.

Skinned Grains & Fusarium: We were slightly nervous as to how bad this would play out over harvest regarding skinned grains, but the situation is not as bad as we feared, in fact we don’t think it is much of an issue thanks to your hard work and diligence in setting up combines etc…The main problem with skinned grains is removal of the germ due to lack of hull protection and fusarium infection on the naked carbohydrate. Later harvested and therefore more weathered crops do show signs of pink grains/fusarium infection but it is not too widespread and we should be able to handle it.

So, all in all we have a decent malting barley crop with good demand, the next issue is logistics!

The main focus will be loading vessels out of Portsmouth & Poole, truck availability will be hard but something we are on top of thanks to the efforts and loyalty of the hauliers we use, especially Stuart Woolston. We would ask you to be ultra-flexible in terms of loading please and whilst we realise manpower on farms is tight with plenty of autumn sowing etc to do we will need to load vessels promptly, we will give as much advanced warning as we can but vessels are very busy, the weather has been unhelpful and berth space at ports is limited so we need to remain fleet of foot and ready to load at short notice if possible.

Barley, Beer and Distilling Markets

As the world recovers from Covid so does the demand for alcohol, with demand for malt following suit. European maltsters did amazingly well throughout the pandemic with sustained demand into third countries like south & central America and some of the Asian markets. With this demand likely to remain and if anything, increase, then further pressure will be exerted on malting barley prices. The southern hemisphere harvest is now very much in the scopes of European buyers and with the ongoing embargo of Australian malting barley by China, we could see Australian barley shipped into mainland Europe. This will depend on how the crop performs (currently in the field), vessel availability, berth availability and how well-suited Australian barleys are to being malted in the northern hemisphere. Feed markets continue to climb and feed barley availability looks limited especially in the UK so premiums must keep ahead of feed markets by some distance to entice growers, merchant, co-ops etc to actually engage with the market. Worth noting that global feed barley stocks are at record lows. Therefore, Malting barley retains its fascinating and hugely volatile status in the market.

Harvest 2022

Recent fertiliser issues could well amount to a large area of spring barley being sown which, on paper, would bring some relief to the market. The proof will be in the pudding as they say and there is an awful long way to next harvest in the northern hemisphere. The weather is likely to play havoc with crops around the world between now and then, so the level of uncertainty remains high. Seed availability issues this autumn could be a feature, especially if the weather turns and makes autumn sowing rather tricky.

We have a lot of good quality Laureate and Planet seed as well as some very enticing premium plus contracts, alongside min-max contracts which start at some very sensible figures.

There is no doubt that malting barley needs more and more attention paid to it as a crop and whilst global markets will remain volatile but at good levels, growing the right variety, getting it tested correctly and thoroughly and getting it into the right home is becoming more and more suited to companies like us rather than a more centralised out and out commodity approach.

Winter Malting Barley Conference

We are very keen to run the conference this winter but we have decided to move it to January this year to make sure we do not cause any Covid issues on the run in to Christmas. With infection numbers climbing we have taken the view that post Christmas will pose the least risk to all attendees and your families. Details are as follows:

Date: Monday 17th January 2022

Venue: Norton Park Hotel, Sutton Scotney, Nr Winchester, Hampshire, SO21 3NB

If you have any queries, please do get in touch with your usual Robin Appel ltd contact or here at the office at Waltham Chase on 01489 896388 or