Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Did you know....we aren't doing anything like this in Canada?

BARLEY Australia has introduced a new "food barley" classification for varieties that fail the malting category but are better than stockfeed.

It comes just a week after the barley industry organisation announced, much earlier than expected, that the popular hindmarsh variety had failed commercial malting tests.

The decision would have meant hindmarsh was downgraded to a feed barley, although buyers were willing to export it as malt to some markets.

Hindmarsh had shown potential as a variety suitable for the shochu market in Japan.

Barley Australia executive manager Neil Barker said the new "food barley" grade would enable hindmarsh and other future varieties with unique food processing or biochemical characteristics to be recognised independently of current malt and feed barley classifications.

"The food classification will create opportunities for both growers and marketers to cater for these special markets," Mr Barker said.

Grain industry figures have been arguing for some time for a food or general purpose category for good varieties that fell into the gap between malting and feed categories.

Wimmera Grain Co. director and Rupanyup farmer David Matthews said there was a need for a food grade for those varieties that failed malting testing for technical reasons but still had other benefits to warrant them being paid more than the feed grain price.

Last week, the differential between the malting and feed grades was a massive $64 a tonne.

[By the way, in Canada, based on the PROs, the malt premium is only $21/tonne.  ...De Pape]

Many growers had their hopes pinned on hindmarsh barley, which had the highest uptake of any new variety in the barley industry.

GrainCorp and Viterra were offering premiums above the feed price for hindmarsh barley.

Mr Matthews said hindmarsh was an "outstanding" variety agronomically.

"Describing hindmarsh as feed did not reflect the reality of a diverse international marketplace," he said.

"Farmers and the grain trade know that many thousands of tonnes of hindmarsh will be exported for malting purposes.

"Classifying this variety as 'feed' immediately undervalues its potential use and sends the wrong signal to the market."

Mr Matthews said describing hindmarsh as "food grade" as GrainCorp did, sent a much stronger signal to customers and allowed marketers to negotiate a discount from a malt barley price.

"It is better to offer a discount to the malt price rather than a premium to a feed grade price," he said.

"The starting point should be the malt price, rather than the feed price."

Mr Matthews said that having a grade in between the feed and malt categories and, as a consequence, a discounted malt price would make a significant difference to the returns.

Plant breeder David Moody said the key characteristics the brewing industry wanted from varieties were higher processing speed and high alcohol yield.

Mr Moody, who bred hindmarsh and now worked for Intergrain, in Western Australia, said enzymes could be used to overcome these problems if, as in the case of hindmarsh, a variety failed to meet accepted levels of either characteristic.

He said many Chinese brewers readily used enzymes but premium brewers from around the world did not.

Mr Moody said the food barley classification might help varieties, such as hindmarsh, extract a better price.

But he said if there was an abundance of malting barley in the world, overseas buyers would probably opt for the better varieties and those that fell into a food grade would probably end up as feed.

There are opportunities out there to market barley into niche markets based on unique characteristics.  The CWB needs to either change the way it looks at these markets or allow others to run with it.  You know....lead, follow, or get out of the way.

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