Domesticated over 10,000 years ago, barley is an ancient grain that has been grown for centuries. Here in Canada, 23,000 farmers produce roughly eight million tonnes of barley annually.
Barley is categorized into three classes: general purpose, malting and food. Canadian barley is primarily used as feed for livestock, and malt for the beer industry.
General purpose barley is primarily used for feed. Due to its high starch and protein content barley is regularly used as feed in local cattle, dairy cow and hog operations—in fact, over 50 per cent of Canada’s barley is used for feed. Historically, Canadian feed barley has primarily been exported to Japan and Saudi Arabia. Now, there is a significant opportunity to export Canadian feed barley to China.
The demand for Canadian beef and pork is also growing. Barley fed beef is finely textured and marbled with white fat—a look and flavour often preferred by beef consumers around the world.
A significant amount of Canadian feed barley is used domestically in feed operations and exported as value-added products through Canada’s beef and pork industries. When exports of Canadian beef and pork increase so does the domestic demand for feed barley.
Malting barley is used to make malt. Malt, a value-added barley product, is primarily used in beer production. It can also be used to add flavour to food and make beverages such as whiskey and vodka.
2.2 million tonnes of malting barley is purchased every year from farmers. Canadian maltsters purchase about 50 per cent of this malting barley for the value-added production of malt. Canadian malt is used by both domestic and international brewers.
Domestically, 250,000 tonnes of this malt is used in the production of beer—the sales of which generates $5.8 billion dollars in provincial and federal taxes annually. Yearly, Canadian brewers export over $250 million in beer.
Over 65 per cent of all Canadian malt production is exported. Canadian malt is exported to more than 20 countries around the world. The top malt markets are: the United States, Japan, South Korea and Mexico. In 2015, Canadian maltsters exported over 575,000 tonnes of malt, valued at over $435 million—and this number is expected to grow. Malt exports will continue to increase as beer production and demand rises in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The Impact of Trade on Canada’s Barley Industry
Canada is the fourth largest barley producer and the second largest malt exporter in the world. The entire Canadian barley value chain is dependent on trade. Annually, $1 billion is directly generated from the export of feed barley and malt.
The production of barley and value-added barley products also impacts breweries, food processors, feed mills, and livestock operations. Together, Canadian breweries and livestock operations export over $2 billion in goods. Canadian barley is an integral part of these industries.
Globally the demand for Canadian barley and barley value-added products continues to grow. In 2015, China purchased nearly 800,000 tonnes of barley—a 129 per cent increase over 2014. Currently, the majority of Canada’s barley exports (malting barley and feed) are destined for China (60.6 per cent), the United States (31.2 per cent) and Japan (7.3 per cent).