The UK Barley: Higher Yields and Good Nitrogen Level


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Every year around 1.9 million tons of Barley is used for malting purposes in the UK, making the country’s brewing industry the biggest buyer of Barley. Spring Barley is predominantly used for producing malt for distilling and lager-type brewing malt, while winter varieties are used mainly in making ale and food malts. All regions of the UK expect their winter Barley area to increase year-on-year, except for Scotland. As with wheat, the largest year-on-year increase in winter Barley plantings is in the East Midlands, which suffered significantly in MY2020/21. 

 The winter crop is understood to have established well with good weed control, although the rains reduced spraying on some of the later planted crop, which could lead to an increased incidence of black grass. Like winter wheat, the condition is also reported as good to excellent. Consumption of UK Barley production is predominately focused on the malting and livestock feed sectors. This fall is Barley used predominantly in the brewing, malting, and distilling (BMD) sector due to COVID-19-related reduced demand during the movement restrictions. 

 Harvest 2022 began in England in early July, some 10–14 days ahead of the average. This was due to above-average temperatures in June and early July, which allowed crops to mature at a much brisker pace than normal. In England, winter Barley quality has been good. Crops have produced good quality in nitrogen and retention levels, with yields slightly above the five-year average. 

 On the other hand, the spring Barley harvest started in England around July 20. In many cases, growers reported the completion of the spring Barley harvest by the end of July. In general, the spring Barley harvest in England produced crops that are more than acceptable for malting with good nitrogen levels and excellent retention.

 Overall, yields were above average in most regions. Any issues with quality and yield were confined to areas with insufficient rainfall in late spring and early summer. In these cases, the crops did not perform well. In the north of England and Scotland, the spring Barley harvest started last July and August. Like England, favorable weather meant that many growers completed their spring Barley harvests by mid-August.

 In general, crops have produced ideal nitrogen levels for the distilling market. Yields have been pleasing for many growers. The consensus is that spring Barley yields are above average. Rain in early September slowed harvest progress in regions that still had spring Barley to harvest. This was mainly focused on Aberdeen shire and north across the Moray Firth. However, 90% of the Scottish spring Barley harvest was completed by early September.

The UK Barley Trade

The UK exports of Barley are predominately destined for the EU market, with some exports to the Middle East and North Africa. Malt exports account for around 200,000 MT, with the United States being the UK’s second-largest export market after Japan. 

Total exports were forecast to fall in MY2021/22 due to the tighter balance. Despite the increase in production in MY2020/21, which followed a similarly large crop in MY2019/20, strong demand, especially as animal feed, meant opening stocks in MY2021/22 to be around 850,000 MT. The forecast smaller crop in MY2021/22 hints that despite the expected reductions in feed use and exports, stocks are forecast to rise less than 250,000 MT year-on-year. In terms of import, according to Agflow data, the UK purchased 17,600 tons and 8,876 tons of Barley from France and Poland in Jan-October 2022, respectively.  

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