Grains Research and Development

Date: 02.09.2013

Asian beer market holds up local barley

Author: Melissa Marino

A leading global maltster has highlighted the importance of research in arresting a decline in worldwide barley plantings as it competes with higher-yielding crops such as corn.

Alain Caekaert, procurement director for malting giant Malteurop, told the Australian Grains Industry Conference in July that barley acreage had fallen by 20 million hectares worldwide in the past 20 years, with significant drops in North America and the former Soviet Union.

Photo of Alain Caekart

Alain Caekaert from Malteurop
explored the importance of barley
R&D to help the crop stay
competitive in global markets at
the 2013 Australian Grains
Industry Conference.

Photo of Rob Dickie

Rob Dickie from Joe White
Maltings discussed the global
over-supply of malting barley at
the recent Australian Grains
Industry Conference in Melbourne.

PHOTOS: Clarisa Collis

While there has been a slight lift in European production this year, Mr Caekaert said that for barley to compete long term with grains such as corn it needed a lift in R&D to make barley yields more competitive.

To this end, he said Malteurop has developed its own global research programs to ensure barley remains a profitable crop.

Over the past five years generally, barley production has fallen in Europe, Russia, Ukraine and Canada. It has remained steady in Australia, while Argentina has bucked the trend completely and doubled its barley production.

European yields rebounded in 2012 and, in the short term, competition between the world’s major barley exporters is expected to increase as a more ‘normal’ winter weather pattern lifts European production.

Mr Caekaert said worldwide, barley is expected to hit 139 million tonnes in 2013-14, which would be slightly up on the past six-year average, and well up on the 129 million tonne 2012-13 harvest.

While worldwide supply and demand in 2012-13 was “pretty much balanced”, 2013-14 could see an excess of 7.4 million tonnes of barley in the system. “So we expect to see more competition between the top four big players in terms of malting barley supply – Europe, Canada, Australia and Argentina,” he said.

In terms of malting barley, a worldwide harvest of about 20.3 million tonnes is expected in 2013-14 compared with 19.4 million tonnes in 2012-13.

Australia is expected to export about 1.8 million tonnes of malting barley, and this is likely to be matched by Argentina’s output – doubling the 0.9 million tonnes it exported in 2012-13. The European Union and Canada are also expected to export slightly more malting barley in 2013-14 than 2012.

But despite the increased competition, Australia’s export market is sustainable, given the stable Chinese market and growing demand in other parts of Asia for malt as their appetite for beer increases, Mr Caekaert said.

“Good malt makes good beer and beer growth is here to stay, so there is a good future,” he said. “We just need to make sure we stay on track – specifically on research. For me, breeding, research and trials are very important. We need to support our industry with a malting barley premium and good varieties.”

Rob Dickie, marketing manager for Australian maltsters Joe White Maltings, said while there is a global over-supply of malting capacity, the company has continued to take advantage of beer and malt demand in Asia.

More than three-quarters of the company’s malt production is exported to north and south-east Asia, where beer consumption continues to increase.

While growth is down for beer production in Australia (minus one per cent in 2012-13), in Thailand – a market of similar size – it was up 1.2 per cent. In Vietnam, with a market 2.5 times the size of Australia’s, growth was a staggering 12 per cent over the same period, he said.

“You can see stark differences between our local market and our key markets in Asia,” he said. “Many other markets continue to provide opportunities for Australian maltsters, so Asia is our focus.”

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GRDC Project Code AAC00006

Region National, Overseas