It’s estimated 70 to 80 percent of the barley grown in Western Canada was affected by heavy rains and snow in early-to-mid September. Factor in the 31 percent decrease in overall barley production estimated by Statistics Canada in its report out Friday morning, and the math is simple; barley that qualifies for malt will be harder to find this year.
“We’re seeing quite a bit of pre-germinated barley, staining, mildew and other quality concerns,” says Peter Watts, who joined the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre in Winnipeg as managing director in August. “Probably about 80 percent of the crop was impacted by rain. The 20 percent that producers got off before the rains, there will probably be a lot of malt barley selected from that.”
Buyers are adjusting their expectations and standards for what qualifies as malt barley, as well as adjusting what they’re willing to pay.
“We’ve already seen prices for malting barley come up. There’s a big spread already, so the premium is already being shown in the marketplace,” he notes, as part of the audio interview below.
Maltsters are also getting better at using lower quality barley, says Watts, noting the CMBTC can provide additional value to the malt sector in years with a lower quality crop.
“We can test-malt and brew the malt barley and provide feedback to the end-users on how to adjust and adapt their processes to this year’s crop,” he explains. “We’re always working with our end-users here at the CMBTC and our partners like the Grain Research Lab at the Grain Commission to help the end-users adjust their processes. So we’ll get through it. We’ve been down this road before.”
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