THE rise of barley has been fantastic during the past two years, moving from a point where we just could not give the stuff away in the harvest of 2016 with the price $130 a tonne to more than $350/t by June 2018.
With production being limited in 2017 and large areas were unable to sow a crop and what was harvested was kept on farm for a rainy day and consequently it has been pouring ever since.
Since March 1, 2018, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported there has been a total of just over one million tonnes of feed barley and 540,631t of malt barley exported out of Australia and just in the month of April alone 484,000t were exported to China.
Adding more fuel to the fire is Asia’s ever increasing and consistent demand for malt barley due to their craft beer sector.
In 20160-17 Australia exported just over five million tonnes of barley into Asia.
Vietnam itself received over 48,000t of this and from 2011 to 2016, Vietnam increased their craft beer sales from four million hectolitres to 10 million hectolitres which equates to over a 150 per cent growth in five years.
Closer to home, one of our own brewing giants here in Australia Lion Nathan who owns XXXX, Toohey’s and Hahn is taking the challenge head on and expanding their own range of craft beer into Asia.
Other factors adding further monetary value to the “good old barley” is the huge demand from the cattle feedlot sector throughout Australia as well as the dairy industry’s consistent demand for the grain and the mixed farming sector which is receiving exceptional prices for their mutton, lamb and wool enterprises.
So, could it be said that we may now be looking at some itchy gold?
In its Australian Crop Report issued this month, ABARES is now reporting that in terms of crop plantings, barley will be up 10 per cent year on year, reaching a massive 4.3 million hectares this year and if the season continues to get later and later, we can only imagine that figure will rise even further.
This could be great, however for Australia to continue to have dominance in the Asia market and representation in over 35 per cent of the international malt market plus meet the needs of the feed and domestic markets, we must continue strong plantings and increase variety traits to out-perform expectations year on year.
If we can manage to do this, well, then just maybe the poor second cousin to wheat that was despised by many and only ever regarded as “sheep tucker’’ really could be itchy gold.