Trip not small beer

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Grass Patch farmer Dan Sanderson prepares for the upcoming SEPWA tour with a beer from last year’s China tour.
Camera IconGrass Patch farmer Dan Sanderson prepares for the upcoming SEPWA tour with a beer from last year’s China tour. Credit: Rosie Henderson

A group of passionate farmers from areas near Esperance have descended on Indian malsters with a clear message this week — Australian barley is great quality and there is plenty of it.

Grass Patch farmer Dan Sanderson was one of the group of 10 that landed in New Delhi last weekend for a nine-day tour of India and Sri Lanka.

The “market discovery” trip was organised by South East Premium Wheat Growers and included eight farmers, SEPWA chief executive Niki Curtis and Farmanco agronomist Ben Curtis.

Mr Sanderson said the main purpose of the trip was to talk to maltsters and grain handlers about the “barriers of importing barley into India”.

It involved three days in New Delhi, three days in Mumbai and three days in Sri Lanka, with tours of malsters, meeting with consulates and visiting a farm.

“There is an increasing beer market in India, but at the moment they source their barley from other places ... due to import restrictions,” he said.

“Our job is not in direct trading, but (we) want to know what these malsters want.

“If we have a hiccup with supply somewhere, for example with the Middle East, Japan, South Korea or China ... India is a big place and we want to be dealing with them as well.”

Barley forms about 30 per cent of Mr Sanderson’s 4500ha cropping program, which also includes wheat, barley, canola field peas and lentils at his property 90km north-west of Esperance.

Mr Sanderson said a big part of the trip was about building relationships, and making buyers “aware of WA’s barley production” and its great quality.

SEPWA chief executive Niki Curtis agreed it was not the group’s role to develop the market, but it was important to “understand where WA sits in the world”.

“We keep on hearing about India being the next big thing, so being able to go there and see it gives us a better understanding,” she said.

“We want to know what the malt barley possibilities will be in coming years, while also putting some focus on lentils and peas.”

Ms Curtis said India wasn’t a big beer-drinking nation, but the fast-growing middle class was starting to want “boutique beers”.

“We have heard there are growing boutique breweries that want Australian barley,” she said.

SEPWA grain growers also went on a study tour to China last year, with the meetings and tours co-ordinated by Austrade.

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