South Africa is expecting a record malting barley crop of just over 526 700t, which is up nearly 53% from the previous season.
However, quality issues in the Southern Cape production regions were affecting barley that was earmarked for malting purposes, according to Richard Krige, vice-chairperson of Grain SA, and a farmer near Caledon in the Overberg region.
Against this expected record harvest, malting barley usage took a sharp hit due to the temporary ban on liquor sales under COVID-19 regulations.
Krige said the build-up of surplus malting barley had led to grave concern among farmers, especially since the 2020/2021 crop still had to be harvested. He stressed that AB-Inbev had, however, “bent over backwards to commit to the mandate as issued and contracted with farmers”.
According to Krige, AB-InBev’s mandate for barley procurement in the 2020 crop year was just over 340 390t in the Southern Cape, 35 000t in the Western Cape, and 81 500t for the northern irrigation areas, for a total of about 456 890t.
Producer estimates in the Southern Cape region had been about 441 890t at the end of September, he said.
“However, quality issues will lead to less malting barley being delivered than initially anticipated. The latest data from African Grain Investments revealed that the delivery of malting barley will rather be around 371 000t, and the oversupply is therefore significantly smaller than anticipated, with the balance of production being feed grade.”
According to Krige, many barley producers throughout the Southern Cape production regions were experiencing split kernels when grading loads, rendering this barley not suitable for malting purposes.
What had caused the barley kernels to split had not yet been determined, but he said it could possibly be related to cold and wet weather conditions followed by abnormal hot days in October. However, the plumpness of the barley kernels was very good this season, he said.
He also stressed that the season was far from over and a lot could still happen. “Rain prior to harvest could cause pre-harvest sprouting that can further impact the quality of barley for malting purposes.”