In the past few years, China’s demand for quality barley has increased significantly. This is because China is brewing more high-end beer. As brewers are turning their attention to increasingly discerning beer consumers, the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre is helping them research new malt-barley varieties to give the beer a richer taste, color and flavor than lower-quality grain.
Nowadays, China is the world’s largest beer consumer market. As incomes increase, beer consumers are increasingly shifting from mass-market brands to premium beer and foreign beer. In November, Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Shen Li and Thomas Jastrzab said in a report that the market share of China’s premium beer has more than doubled in the first five years ended 2017.
Canada is the second largest malt-barley exporter to China and is trying to get more market shares from Australia, the largest exporter. Canadian barley has a higher protein content than similar crops from Australia. That unique quality is good for fermentation and gives the beer more foam and a richer flavor.
The government data show that Canada’s barley planting acreage jumped 13% in 2018, and production is expected to climb to 8.2 million tonnes. This year, the bad weather delayed the harvest of barley in parts of the Canadian Prairies and reduced the supply of quality crops suitable for the production of malt. But Canada’s export of malt-barley to China is still expected to reach 1 million tonnes, the second highest in history.
The drought conditions from Europe to Australia is causing global barley stocks to fall to their lowest level in 35 years. The spot price of barley in Saskatchewan, Canada has risen 10% this year and the shortage has caused feed barley prices in some areas, including Germany, to rise by more than 30% since April.
Demand is still strong, although supply is getting tighter. Jerry Klassen, a manager of Canadian operations and trading at Gap SA Grains & Produits in Winnipeg, said, “This year, the world barley fundamentals are historically tight, and that’s benefiting Canadian exports.” Firm prices may spur Canadian farmers to grow more barley in 2019.
Many research institutions in Canada are also actively involved in the research and development of quality malt-barley. From a Winnipeg lab, the new varieties being tested, including a new variety for the craft brewers, have higher yields and boost the chances of farmers planting quality crops that can be converted to malt. This in turn will make Canadian barley more competitive.