After the end of this year’s European barley crop it becomes evident that malting barley supply will be tight for the coming season. Especially the results in France are very disappointing with 20-25% lower available quantities of 2-row and 6-row barley compared to last year. Elevated protein levels and unfavorable grading with small kernels disqualify most of the barley for malting purposes. However phyto-sanitary conditions seem to be satisfactory.
Germany looks better. Llike in former years demand of German maltsters exceeds supply by far. 1 -1.1 million tons of malting barley need to be imported from neighboring countries. Since the French crop is much smaller this year, much more than usual has to come from Scandinavia.
Denmark and to a much lesser extend also Sweden have a surplus of satisfying barley quality which will be arithmetically enough to cover missing quantities in Germany. Since most of spring barley in Denmark goes usually into pig feed and price premium of malting barley over feed barley is this year much higher than in normal years, farmers might be reluctant to sell their barley for pig feeding. Instead they could prefer to export the good qualities and import feed barley of minor quality.
The U.K. has seen an average crop. Higher demand from maltsters abroad, due also to the devaluation of the British pound after the Brexit vote, might increase the selection here as well and bring the malting barley export surplus of U.K. over 500,000 tons.
Canada has not finished its crop yet but it seems that larger volumes might be compensated by poorer quality.
All in all it can be said that the available quantities and qualities will be enough to cover the need of European maltsters and brewers but without any noticeable surplus for export. 6-row winter barley, which is mainly grown in France, is scarce and brewers might be forced to switch to higher priced malt from 2-row spring barley.
This season’s price level for malting barley and hence also for malt depends therefore on the coming crops of the Southern Hemisphere namely in Argentina and Australia. So far, the overall depressed price level for grain in general also keeps the price for malt and malting barley at a decent level.