Miso to grits: New Horizons for Oz barley market

AUSTRALIAN BARLEY is finding a broader market than ever with new opportunities, including health foods and production of 'neutraceuticals', beckoning as the USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves health claims for barley.

These are similar to those already achieved for oats and psyllium seed husk, i.e. that dietary soluble fibre, present in high concentrations in barley, can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol.

The Japanese market purchases approximately 150,000 tonnes per annum (valued at $30 million) of Australian barley to produce foods ranging from spirits (shochu) to soups (miso) to barley tea. Korea with similar tastes is also a major consumer of barley, but currently imports less than 30,000 tonnes per annum from Australia. The development of the functional food market (and neutraceuticals) is presently valued at over $US30 billion and growing by 10 per cent per annum, and could be a future outlet for barley.

What should Australian growers know about the requirements of these expanding markets? Jennifer Washington from the Adelaide University's Department of Plant Science has spent the last three years working on a GRDC-supported project researching the potential of alternative end uses of barley.

She offered Ground Cover the following primer on the requirements of some new generation barley products.

What's in, what' not

The Japanese market has specific requirements including bright white plump grain, uniform size and hardness and, when pearled, a high extraction yield, low percentage broken kernels and low percentage screenings <2.0 mm. Western markets present opportunities for hull-less, 'waxy' (low amylose starch) barley that has a bright white mealy endosperm, particularly suitable for milling, a high concentration of soluble fibre (e.g. Β-glucan) and starch with high swelling power and colloidal stability, (which gives it good freeze/thawing properties). Waxy starch can also be used as a 'fat replacer' in certain foods.

How to better serve the market

Improving grain uniformity for the Japanese shochu and pearling markets is a high priority.

Uniformity is influenced by variety choice, but mostly by environmental factors. Growing sites and farm management practices need greater scrutiny. Ideally, shochu-quality barley should be grown in gentle climates and/or areas with good water-holding capacity soils (e.g. the maritime areas of SA and non-drought-affected regions ofWA).

Agronomic practices to optimise protein in shochu-quality barley (9-11.5 per cent) and hull-less barley for brewer's malt are required, as are agronomic practices to increase barley uniformity.

Selection of grain of similar uniformity (size and hardness) for pooled shipments is a priority. This can be achieved using the SKCS (Perten Instruments) for determining barley grain. uniformity of individual samples. NIR calibrations for hardness are under investigation.

Marketing priorities;

  • FDA approval for barley health claims
  • breeding and production of new hullless, waxy varieties to compete with Canadian exports
  • investigation of export opportunities to Korea, Taiwan and China
  • value-adding to local barley, by promoting a 'functional foods' industry
  • promotion of hull-less barley as a quality high-extract malt.

Program 5 Contact: Ms Jennifer Washington 0883037456 email jennifer.washington@adelaide.edu.au