Barley shoots to top of the crops on Google

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Camera IconBarley. Credit: Simon Santi

Australians typed the burning question “what is barley?” into Google more times than ever between May 17 and 23, according to the search engine’s trends data.

The sudden rise in interest co-incided with China announcing its decision to slap costly tariffs on Australian barley on May 19.

The Asian powerhouse informed industry of its plans to impose the tariffs on May 9, before confirming the move 10 days later.

The popularity of the search term has gradually receded since its peak last month, with as many people Googling “what is barley?” last week as they did at random intervals during the past 12 months.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


Australian grain market analyst Andrew Whitelaw posted a screenshot regarding the Google searches to Twitter recently and was bemused to find it attracted 62 retweets, nearly 200 likes, and dozens of comments.

“I was quite surprised it attracted so much attention, I didn’t think it was that interesting,” he said.

“Whenever something big happens, I am curious to see if something is trending.

“Obviously with barley being in the press, and barley being on the news, people are searching, ‘What is barley?’.”

Mr Whitelaw said the data also showed a surge in googling “live export” in May 2011, when the Federal Government suspended live cattle exports to Indonesia after ABC’s Four Corners aired confronting footage of cruelty to Australian cattle.

“There were a lot of people searching ‘live export’ after that aired on Four Corners,” he said.

“The rest of the time, no one is really that interested.”

Another, more lighthearted example was the popularity of bidets — the low oval basins used for washing after going to the toilet.

“A good example is, ‘bidet’. The most people were searching for it was in March, when we had no toilet paper,” Mr Whitelaw said.

Mr Whitelaw said while it was a “bit funny” to discover people were googling “what is barley”, it was a “bit worrying”.

“It is one of those things people should know,” he said.

“It is in beer, it is in Milo... barley is not an uncommon thing, but I guess that is a sign of the times.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails