Many malting barley growers are considering their future with this crop.

While it is good to see the drinks sector expanding, growers feel that all the upstream processors have transferred their risk back onto producers and they are very unhappy with the way this sector is evolving. This can be seen by the level of new requirements that have been imposed on growers in recent years.

The traditional malting barley specification involved variety and screenings.

Protein is relatively new but understandable. Add to these maximum skinning levels that vary between purchasers, risks associated with having only one variety, additional transport costs to help keep varieties pure, the obligation to purchase more expensive seed and the recent obligation on Boortmalt growers to supply protein within two separate protein bands, one for brewing and the other for distilling.

All of these requirements mean it is very easy for a grower to be outside of specification on any of these. This means rejection and loss of premium, but this still comes from a higher cost base.

Growers would argue, and rightly so, that the current specs significantly increase the risk of rejection, with no additional premium to help compensate.

For these reasons a number of growers are seriously considering reducing their malting area and a few have reportedly ceased production.

The necessity to reduce nitrogen rates to help hit low protein targets for distilling on specific varieties will mean loss of yield. But if protein is still excessive that load will be rejected as that variety may not be suitable for brewing. This is an additional problem on use-specific varieties.

Add to these the huge levels of traceability being imposed, all of which cost money, and it is easy to understand the frustration being experienced at grower level.

New transport proposals, maximum delivered moisture levels, constraints on combine use and grain delivery at harvest, among other things, are forcing traditional malting barley growers to consider their future with this crop.

Read more

Editorial: malting barley concerns