Canadian malt exports look to exceed last year: market watcher

WINNIPEG — This year’s barley crop in Canada appears to have exceeded early expectations.

Despite chitting and sprouting in some of the later seeded crops, much of the barley looks better than last year’s crop, according to an industry watcher.

“The crop will also be bigger than last year,” said Rod Green of Central Ag Marketing in Alberta.

Barley production in 2014-15 reached 7.1 million tonnes and is forecast to hit 7.6 million tonnes this year, according to Statistics Canada.

He says July rains on the western Prairies, especially southern Saskatchewan, were an “absolute saviour” because at the end of June it appeared they weren’t going to have much of a barley crop at all. The moisture helped raise the bushel weight of the crop.

However, hot weather boosted the protein percentage, Green said.

High protein levels can render the barley unuseable for some maltsters and craft-beer makers who are generally looking for low protein.

“Protein is something you can work with, but when the barley is chitted and sprouted, it loses its germination very fast and longevity is limited,” said Green.

He said a lot of malt exports have already been booked and the marketing season should be busier than last year, but the cash price for growers depends on quality. Canadian feed and malting barley exports  in 2014-15 totalled 2.5 million tonnes.

“If you’ve got really good quality, then you’re looking at $6 picked up. If it’s lower quality, then you’re into the lower $5 area,” he said.

Green said earlier-seeded barley did better than later-seeded crop, which encountered fall rain.

He said some of the later harvested barley sprouted or chitted due to the excess moisture content and won’t be able to be shipped overseas because of how quickly it loses its germination.

“You can’t ship chitted barley, especially once it gets into the heat of the tropics,” he said.

Earlier-seeded barley will “nine times out of 10” lead to better quality, he added.

“We always seem to get a weather change in late September or October so later-seeded barley is usually under more weather stress.”

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