Drought in the US and Canada has drastically reduced production of malting barley. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that US total barley production will be reduced by more than one third (36%) to 2.3mmt this year compared to the year before. The production is at the lowest level for many years. Five years ago, barley production was at 4.8mmt, more than double of the current rate.
In a normal year over 57% (2mmt) of US barley production is used for malt. With a shortfall of about 1.3mmt of barley this year, about 1 mmt of malting barley is missing and the quality of the barley in use will be much lower than in previous years.
Canada’s barley crop this year was also a disaster for the same reasons. The production dropped by 2mmt (20%) to about 8mmt for the year. This will reduce exports from 2.8mmt of barley in 2020 to about 1.8mmt of barley in 2021 according to forecasts of the International Grains Council (IGC).
Moreover, drought has elevated protein levels above malting barley specification, thus tightening supply and creating challenges for brewers and maltsters, according to Dr Yueshu Li, director of the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC).