Premium barley grade raised

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman
The West logo

A premium malt barley grade could be considered in a bid to protect WA's lucrative export malt markets.

In a review of barley receival standards, the Grain Industry Association of WA (GIWA) has come up with several proposed changes.

For the coming season, GIWA is considering increasing the screen shakes for barley from 20 to 40, while next season could see the maximum screenings for Malt 1 reduced from 25 per cent to 15 per cent.

In the same year, maximum screenings for Malt 2 could be reduced from 35 per cent to 30 per cent.

GIWA chairman Jon Slee said the change to the number of shakes during sampling was about ensuring continuity of quality.

He said while 20 shakes were sufficient during a soft finish, it was not necessarily the case if there was a tight finish.

"National and even international standards use 40 shakes," Mr Slee said.

"In seasons where we have a tight finish and there are higher screenings levels, 20 shakes are not giving an accurate representation of that sample.

"A stack average could be 29 per cent screenings but when we use 40 shakes to outturn we can find it's out of specs.

"Traditionally, when things were delivered into a pool, that cost (of cleaning out of spec stacks) was passed back to the grower but when grain is bought for cash it's the grain trading company that wears that," he said.

Mr Slee said the proposed changes were about protecting WA's market share and ensuring the current standards were delivering a competitive product to the market.

"The world market has changed," he said.

"Deregulation has meant managing quality is more challenging but we're also seeing the introduction of more malt barley from countries like Argentina."

Since 2009, Argentina's barley exports have increased from 500,000 tonnes to three million tonnes.

Beer demand has also remained relatively flat in traditional markets, while price-sensitive Chinese maltsters tend to incorporate other starch sources during malting when barley prices are high.

About two thirds of the Chinese demand for malt barley is now for what is deemed fair average quality (FAQ) - not the traditional Malt 1.

This means the WA industry has to look at how its standards work with international malt barley demand.

"We want to protect the premium malt barley markets but we're also keen not to lose malt to the feed stack," Mr Slee said.

"Traditionally we've had Feed, Malt 1 and Malt 2 - a step grade which, depending on prices, could be cleaned and blended.

"Now we're probably looking at Premium Malt grade, FAQ grade and Feed."

But Mr Slee said standard changes were still a work in progress, with nothing set in stone.

"We have to show how it can add value to the WA barley industry," Mr Slee said.

Industry feedback on the changes is being sought over the next four weeks.

A final decision on standard changes needs to be signed off on August 15 by the GIWA executive.

The industry to be told of the changes later in the month.


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