South Africa: Barley Acreage Reaches 106,600 Ha
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The world’s leading Barley producers are the Russian Federation, France, Germany, Canada, Ukraine, Australia, Spain, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and Argentina. In Africa, the top producers are Ethiopia, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and South Africa. Barley farming significantly contributes to the latter’s agricultural sector and is the essential small grain after wheat. It is a versatile crop that is used for animal feed, as well as for the production of malt for beer and whisky.
The Southern Cape and Northern Cape account for most of the local production under dryland and irrigation, respectively. The beer-brewing industry uses most of the Barley produced locally. At the same time, a small portion goes to animal feed (this is because large volumes of maize are produced in South Africa, and as a result, this forms the main ingredient in animal feed.)
In total, there are 31 species of Barley, most of which are perennial grasses. Researchers believe that they all originated from one ancestor plant, Hordeum spontaneum. Two types are farmed commercially. The number of kernel rows in the head is used to distinguish them. The most widely grown type is six-row Barley; the second is two-row Barley. Two-row Barley used to be classified as Hordeum distichum, but both are now classed as Hordeum vulgare. Only two-row Barley is planted in South Africa.
The South African Barley Breeding Institute (SABBI) works to develop Barley cultivars that offer increased yield, disease resistance, and quality. When it was founded, the institute evaluated cultivars worldwide to find the most successful in the southern Cape. It turned out that few were suitable, and as a result, a breeding program began in 1983.
Researchers would later discover that certain varieties, mainly from Europe, could be successfully grown under irrigation in the Northern Cape, and a breeding program aimed at maximizing yield and quality in this region is also underway. According to SABBI, the three varieties recommended for malting Barley production in the Southern Cape are Kadie, Hessekwa, and Elim. The Barley cultivars Genie and Overture are only recommended for the commercial production of malted Barley under irrigation.
South Africa’s Barley Production
With a growing season from April to September, this is a winter cereal crop. In 2019, the aggregate production of Barley in South Africa amounted to 345 thousand metric tons. Western Cape was the leading province in Barley production, with 274.5 thousand metric tons, approximately 80 percent of the overall output.
Also, Barley is grown in the Southern and Northern Cape, with some plantings in the North West Province. In the Southern Cape (Overberg region), Barley is grown in areas surrounding Caledon, Bredasdorp, Riviersonderend, Napier, and Swellendam; in the Northern Cape it is farmed in the Vaalharts Douglas, Barkley West, Rietrivier and Hopetown areas. Emerging farmers at Taung in the North West Province also cultivate the crop.
Barley production has fluctuated substantially in recent years. From 1971 to 2020, it increased to 588 thousand tons. But during the Covid pandemic, farmers saw demand for the grain fall and stockpiles grow after successive temporary bans on the sale of alcohol. Unutilized stocks by December 2020 were 53% higher than the previous year, according to data from the South African Grain Information Service, and farmers were forced to sell excess Barley as animal feed at 40 to 50% lower than the price of malting Barley.
As a result, they cut the area under Barley sharply by 33% y/y to 94,730 hectares, and Barley production fell by around 39% from the 2020/21 season, estimated at 356,700 tons. Since then, the Government has removed Covid restrictions, and the 2022/23 winter crop season saw plantings progressing well at an estimated 106,600 hectares, up 13% y/y.
Other sources: ADAMA
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