Grower push, buyer pull, steer 2022 WA barley
WESTERN Australia’s barley industry is adjusting to an evolving feed/malting market weighting without China as its volume buyer, a move being reflected in the 2022-23 malting barley variety receival segregation recommendations distributed by the Grains Industry Association of WA. WA is Australia’s biggest barley grower and exporter by far, its five-year production average to last year sits at 4.2 million tonnes and 4.9Mt is expected from the upcoming harvest.
Up to 30pc of WA barley can make malting grades, for which key attributes are germination, purity of variety, protein, grain size and natural dryness. Prior to China’s exit last year, WA regularly exported more than 500,000t of malting barley per year to that market alone.
WA’s first-ranking customers for malting barley are operating not overseas but in Perth.The malting barley buyers for Western Australian malthouses and for selection of parcels for shochu are key, ongoing and premiums, necessarily, are paid by them.
Growers need premiums to deliver malting because their decisions on variety and crop care are profit-based.
Port zone rank, varieties-by-port-zone evolve
The high-end barley sales change in 2020 especially has ongoing effect on growers in the port zones Albany and Esperance, ports most reliant on export of bulk malting barley compared with Kwinana. Perth-based, Kwinana malthouses buy about 360,000t barley locally for processing into malt for export and for locally made beverages and food. Their drawing arc is relevant to port-zone segregations in CBH grain storages geographically concentrated in the Kwinana zone.
The second ranking customer group uses approximately 160,000t of barley ingredient in distilled spirit Shōchū in Japan. Export of bulk barley for shochu, is handled most opportunely in the Kwinana Port zone also.
Third ranked is the export malting barley trade for malting and brewing to destinations where WA market share is rising, including Vietnam, Mexico, Peru and Ecuador. Markets in Asia are growing and buyers in Central and South America emerging, even though volumes are smaller than those shipped to China in its heyday.
It is the combination of all market rankings which secures price premiums for malting over feed and creates positives for grower gross margins. Malting barley received in CBH’s Geraldton and Esperance port zones mostly makes bulk grain export. Kwinana and Albany zones are more versatile, as receivals readily transfer to Perth for malt processing in addition to bulk export as grain from the port, with Kwinana being the conduit for shochu barley. The WA barley industry supports the long-term aim of segregating up to two major malt varieties per port zone, with limited segregations on offer for minor, new or niche malt varieties.
Spartacus CL and RGT Planet dominate the area sown to barley in WA. Spartacus CL will be segregated as malting at sites in all CBH Grain port zones, and RGT Planet in the Albany and Esperance port zones, and production regions in the Kwinana port zone bar north(east). Maximus CL will have limited segregations in Kwinana, Albany and Esperance port zone sites to give markets opportunity to evaluate the new variety.
The recommendations point to senescence of several ageing varieties despite strong demand or attributes desired by certain processors. WA production trends of accredited malt varieties in decline include Bass, Flinders and La Trobe.
Varieties considered suitable for the manufacture of shochu in Japan have been La Trobe and, more recently, Spartacus CL, while Bass, Flinders and RGT Planet have not. La Trobe would earn itself niche segregation in 2022/23 which is subject to grower, marketer, storage-provider negotiation in Esperance, Albany and Kwinana port zone sites as occurred in 2021/22.
La Trobe was in the past five years the preferred shochu variety.
La Trobe will no longer be a segregated variety after the 2022-23 harvest, in part explained by approval of Spartacus CL variety approval for shochu after Japan raised the maximum residue limit (MRL) for imazapyr to 0.7ppm from 0.01ppm early this year.
Spartacus CL (Figure 1) in 2022/23 has gained the ACCEPTABLE (increasing) tag for shochu.