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As always in understanding the North American barley crop in the bigger world barley picture, three things matter most: Stocks, prices and crop quality. Another layer of complexity this year will be the swing-for-the-fences politics – namely the impact of Brexit on UK exports, and the consequences of the US-China trade war. All said, a central benefit to ‘regional malting’ is a reduced reliance on the global grain complex, especially as it relates to control over quality grain inventory.
Barley crops in Europe and North America are relatively large, whereas Australia and Argentina are relatively small, and may remain so, as drought conditions become the new normal. But some areas in both northern US Plains and Canadian Prairies are facing excessive rainfall and early winter conditions, threatening both spring wheat and malting barley quality. This year’s challenging situation is aggravated by the disappearance of any carry-over from last year in Canada.
The European countries had varying results: With large crops now in the bins, France, UK, Denmark and Sweden will carry over with surpluses in malting barley – quality is mostly very good, with the exception of variable proteins in France. Throughout Europe, some areas reported poor crops due to summer heat waves resulting in low yields, high proteins and thin grains.
The 2019 barley harvest in the traditional growing regions of North America (Montana, Idaho and North Dakota in the US, and Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada) is complete, and while serious quality issues such as pre-sprouting are scattered about, malting barley in these growing regions of northern US and Canada is mostly categorized as ‘fair to good’.
PROXIMITY MALT Spring Barley:
Our Colorado malthouse sources from the local San Luis Valley, where the crop harvest was completed in late August. The crop yield was on track with historical values of about 150 bushels per acre and crop quality—protein, plump and brightness-is predominantly excellent.
PROXIMITY MALT Winter Barley:
Proximity began planting 2020 winter malt barley crop this month in select areas of the Mid-Atlantic. As producers wrap up their corn and soybean harvest in the next week or so, we should see barley planting in full swing. The area is very dry, with the last rain event being 10 days ago. Farmers will need a little rain before getting the planters rolling.
Spring and Winter Wheat Round Up:
The wheat market has been somewhat quiet, with the spring wheat harvest progressing at 87% complete (vs 99% last YTD) and winter wheat planting progress at 22% (vs 26% last year). The same rain impacting barley harvest in North Dakota is affecting the spring wheat harvest, which will likely result in similar grain quality issue as well. Most wheat traders are expecting large beginning stocks, but it will be interesting to see where forecasted sales and the ending stocks actually land.