Friday, January 14, 2011

Time to Get Involved

Here’s an idea!  Let’s go to the Western Barley Growers Association convention in February. 

Let’s face it – the barley market is practically in crisis mode.  Canadian maltsters are scrambling to find barley good enough to make malt – and it’s not easy.  The quality just isn’t out there and price signals are non-existent.  The CWB’s malt barley export program this year will be one of the smallest ever; watch for increased imports of both malt barley and malt just to cover domestic brewing needs.  Feed demand is shrinking along with animal numbers and an increased flow of DDGs.

Barley acres are going down almost every year to a point now where barley acres are expected to rebound only slightly from the sub-7 million acre level of last year – the lowest acreage since 1965. 

Looking ahead to next year, barley users are going to have to provide some good price signals to get barley seeded.  How is that going to happen under the current environment?

Why does barley matter?  Barley is the second most important cereal grown in Canada – important in terms of rotation and self sufficiency in feed and food requirements.  That means competitiveness; as barley production goes down, production of other crops increase which is certainly not going to push prices of those crops higher. 

How the CWB operates in this market is fundamental to the issues that are impacting barley as well as all other crops.  This situation needs attention – along with many other CWB issues such as how CWB is unable to provide meaningful price signals, poor movement, high costs and a drag on just about everything. 

The Barley Growers Convention is a great place to talk to like-minded farmers from across Western Canada as well as many industry people.  This year, the convention is a jointly-hosted affair along with the Master Brewers Association of the Americas – so you can find out everything you ever wanted to know about barley, malt and brewing and how they all interact.  (I’m sure there will be samples of the final product available as well!)

Topics of discussion will include areas of interest to both farmers and end-users – such as how farming practices affect malt quality (and ultimately beer quality), how grain handling affects quality and what barley qualities brewers are looking for.  Making sense of world trade and its implications to Canada will also be discussed.

Note that if you want to hear more specifically about the CWB, or press a point or two, Ian White, CEO of the CWB will be there speaking on CWB programs.  It would be a great opportunity to discuss with him your concerns about the CWB (not just barley!) and participate or listen in on discussions about the CWB, the Single Desk and barley.  Some CWB directors will also be there to discuss your issues. 

I’ll be there too and I’m eager to hear your stories about the CWB and the Single Desk - what’s working and what’s not.  There will no doubt be many discussions about where the industry needs to go and how to get there.

The convention is on Feb 16-18 in Calgary.  More detail can be found on the WBGA website, including registration information.  Or you can call Dianne at 403-912-3998.

One thing that has become apparent is that we have significant problems in agriculture generally and barley specifically; we need to find solutions.  Come to the WBGA / MBAA joint convention and get involved. 

I hope to see you there.

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