Ce­real grow­ers can look for­ward to boom time

De­mand: Fore­cast of need for pro­duce ir­re­spec­tive of fi­nal Brexit out­come

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - FARMING - BY NANCY NI­COL­SON

“We’ve had strong whisky re­quire­ment be­fore”

Ce­re­als grow­ers have been told to count their bless­ings be­cause they can look for­ward to the prospect of grow­ing de­mand for their pro­duce ir­re­spec­tive of the fi­nal out­come of Brexit.

Spring bar­ley pro­duc­ers at­tend­ing an AHDB/SAC agron­omy con­fer­ence in Scone, near Perth, heard SAC senior ru­ral busi­ness con­sul­tant Ju­lian Bell pre­dict that the open­ing of 10 new dis­til­leries in 2019 and an­other 40 by 2021 would see de­mand for Scot­tish malt­ing bar­ley in­crease by 33,000 tonnes by 2023.

Mr Bell said this growth, cou­pled with an in­crease in malt­ing ca­pac­ity at Ar­broath, meant the next peak in whisky de­mand could be bet­ter met by Scot­tish grow­ers.

He also pointed out that while the boom­ing whisky in­dus­try is ex­port-fo­cused, it is not sub­ject to trade bar­ri­ers.

“We’ve had strong whisky re­quire­ment be­fore, but we’ve not been able to cap­i­talise on it be­cause of a lim­ited malt­ing ca­pac­ity,“he said.

“And no one is go­ing to put tar­iff bar­ri­ers be­tween farm­ers in Perthshire and malt­ings in An­gus.

“They need one an­other and the end mar­ket is grow­ing.”

How­ever, Mr Bell sug­gested that sourc­ing the suitable bar­ley could pose a prob­lem be­cause while yields are im­prov­ing in tri­als sites, they are not be­ing repli­cated in com­mer­cial fields.

In­stead he said farm­ers could look at re­plac­ing sec­ond spring wheats with spring bar­ley.

“Spring bar­ley has been less prof­itable than spring wheat apart from in 2018. But sec­ond wheats are less prof­itable and that’s where spring bar­ley needs to tar­get to get the land in,” he said.

“If you plug in all the mar­ket in­for­ma­tion and yields don’t go up, by 2022 we will need 90% of all the spring bar­ley that’s cur­rently grown for malt­ing, which is push­ing it in terms of what’s fea­si­ble. And more than half the bar­ley grown is cur­rently used for feed­ing an­i­mals.”

He said va­ri­ety choice needed to be pushed fur­ther up the “de­ci­sion tree”.

WHISKY GA­LORE: Spring bar­ley pro­duc­ers were told the open­ing of 10 new dis­til­leries this year would see de­mand rise by 33,000 tonnes

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