The Tale of Two Countries – East and West
Well, what a tough season. ABARE have forecast the barley harvest to be around 7.3 million tonnes, well below the long-term average of 9 million tonnes. Although the overall yield is down, there are some hidden gems.
Central and Northern NSW was a write off with the whole state declared in drought and with many a failed crop through this region.
Southern NSW, Victoria and SA had low rainfall during the growing season, but cool conditions limited moisture stress on the crops. Seasonal conditions turned stormy at the start of November as rain halted what had been a variable harvest across SA. The addition of several frost events and late rainfall in December, particularly through Victoria and SA were detrimental to the later crops with some pre-harvest sprouting, which resulted in much of this crop not making malting grade.
In summary, the East Coast had a very low acceptance rate of malting grade barley along with significantly lower total barley production. Many farmers held onto their grain for feed due to the high local feedstock prices.
However, one gem was the West Coast, with cool temperatures and good rainfall across much of the grain growing regions. The crop in WA is larger than the ABARE December forecast and is a record for WA. It also produced higher than normal malt selection rates.
The surplus supply of grain in the West will offset deficiencies of malting grade barley on the east coast and it is anticipated that several vessels will be carrying malting grade barley from the West to the East coast plants through 2019.
In other good news, Tasmania has produced an outstanding barley crop this season, benefiting from late spring rainfall. The Tasmanian harvest was completed in almost ideal conditions. Clear sunny days without excessive heat through-out the harvest period ensured some of the best malting barley quality in a number of years. As a result, this harvest produced a bright, bold barley with excellent grain size and ideal protein levels. Micromalting of the Tasmanian barley will commence shortly but there is already quite a bit of excitement about the Tassie crop.
So, while it was a very tough year in many parts of the country, there were still pockets of terrific barley grown and it will be from these regions that we select for our 2019 Signature Malt.