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Malt barley prices strong despite ongoing harvest

CNS Canada — Commodity prices typically buckle under harvest pressure, but malt barley has been acting as the shining star of cash markets. Influencers within Canada and globally have contributed to the climb, according to one industry expert.

Cash prices for delivered elevator malt barley range between $5.25 and $5.75 per bushel, according to Prairie Ag Hotwire.

Barley acreage in Western Canada has held relatively static over the past couple of years, despite increased demand.

Within Canada, craft brewing industries have increased the demand for malt barley, said Brian Otto, a farmer at Warner, Alta. and chairman of the Barley Council of Canada.

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“We’re getting increased interest from microbreweries or craft brewers — they’re very specific about what kind of malt barley they want, what variety.”

In 2014, the Prairie provinces produced 6.7 million tonnes of feed and malt barley, according to Statistics Canada. StatsCan projects this year’s production at 6.8 million tonnes.

Global interest is strong, especially in Southeast Asia, and that has resulted in higher world prices, which Canadian markets follow, Otto said.

“World demand is there; certainly the quality of our malt barley in Canada warrants the increase in price.”

This year, producers had been concerned the hot, dry weather seen in Alberta and Saskatchewan had pushed protein levels higher, which aren’t ideal for malt barley.

However, Otto said, most farmers have fared well enough. “Protein has been a little higher this year, but certainly within the acceptable limits of the industry.”

Otto said his farm, about 70 km southeast of Lethbridge, didn’t see rain for almost a month and a half.

“I was concerned about our barley. The yield was average to a little below average, and when you get that dry weather you worry about your protein.”

Alberta and Saskatchewan, which grow the majority of the Prairies’ barley, are 32 and 40 per cent finished their barley harvests respectively.

Jade Markus writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Follow her at @jade_markus on Twitter.

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