Malt barley facing stiff competition

More malt barley in Western Canada will be grown solely on a contracted basis as increasing competition from easier-to-grow genetically modified crops will cause producers to turn away from malt barley, Patrick Rowan, senior manager of Canadian barley operations with BARI-Canada said at the annual Wild Oats Grainworld conference Feb. 26.

Genetically modified soybeans and corn have already “decimated” the U.S. barley crop, with almost no feed barley grown and malt barley only planted on a contracted basis, said Rowan. While feed barley is still a major crop in Western Canada, a similar trend is developing as far as malt barley is concerned in Canada, with improving herbicide-resistant soybean and corn varieties moving into traditional malt barley areas of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Canola is taking away area that might once have been seeded to malt barley, he said.

Rowan anticipated GM wheat would be commercially available by 2021-22 at the latest, which will cause even more competition for barley as it is not keeping pace in variety development through traditional breeding practices.

However, global demand for beer is rising and the end of the wheat board single desk is allowing malt barley customers to contract directly with farmers, said Rowan. He noted that malt barley takes work to grow to the specifications of the malting companies, which will be easier to do under contract.

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Phil Franz-Warkentin - MarketsFarm

Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for MarketsFarm specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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