Australia is still exporting millions of tonnes of barley despite the loss of access to China but the premium for growing malt varieties no longer exists. Speaking at the Grain Industry Association of WA barley forum yesterday, CBH Group marketing and trading manager Drew Robertson said that when Australia lost its biggest customer in May last year amid a deteriorating relationship between Canberra and Beijing it came as a major blow to the industry. Australia still exported 5.7 million tonnes of barley between October 2020 and May this year, the main destinations being Saudi Arabia (43 per cent) and Thailand (17 per cent). But Mr Robertson said the premium paid to farmers for growing malt varieties no longer existed. Even new markets for the premium malt varieties could not compensate for the loss of China. He said plantings were down by 5 per cent this year, on top of a 15 per cent decline last year. A major driver behind the 2021 reduction was farmers instead favouring canola given the strong prices and good start to the season. Mr Robertson said the higher yields and its benefits in a crop rotation were among the reasons growers still continued planting barley. GIWA barley council chairman Lyndon Mickel said the loss of the China market had shaken up the WA industry, which had realised it had put all of its eggs in one basket. “We need to always use event like this to think about how can improve Australian barley as a whole,” he said. GIWA forecasts that WA farmers will produce about 5m tonnes of barley this year.