other parts of the world, including Europe, making it more attractive
to premium brewers.
Big Selling Points
“We have some of the best barley in the world for protein and
enzyme activity,” said Kevin Sich, supply chain director for Rahr
Malting in Alix, Alta., one of Canada’s largest barley processors.
“A lot of places, like Europe and Australia, the proteins in
their barleys are sometimes too low. They’re down around eight
or nine per cent versus our Canadian stuff that is 12 or 13. Most
brewers, what they like is 11 or 12 per cent to make their beer.
Plus, Canadian barley offers a very high enzyme package, meaning
it can convert free starches from other sources like corn syrup
or rice into sugars which in turn create alcohol. Barley from some
of the other countries don’t have the enzymes in their barley like
Canada does. Those are two very big selling points for our Western
Watts agrees. He also points out the fact that many in the
brewing industry believe that Canadian barley makes an important
flavour contribution in the beer-making process, although he
concedes that can be difficult to quantify.
Canada is regarded as one of the world’s biggest exporters of
malt barley, ranking behind only Australia in terms of volume. It
typically produces between eight and nine million tons of barley
annually, with about half of that being certified as malting quality.
Of that, approximately two to two-and-a-half tons are exported to
other parts of the world.
Although Canadian exports of malt barley to China have increased
over the past few years, those numbers are expected to level off
and possibly even decrease slightly in the near future, according
“China’s demand for malting barley is pretty steady right now.
It’s not rising,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll see a dramatic increase
in Canadian malting barley exports to China in the coming years.
We’ve already seen a substantial growth. If we can maintain a million
tons of exports to China that would be fantastic. That would in
my view be a huge success for Canada.”
Watts also cautions that the sometimes volatile nature of
trade relations between Canada and China could also impact on
the neighbourhood of one million tons of malt barley to China
So, why is Canadian barley so in demand by Chinese brewers
these days? The relatively low Canadian dollar has helped.
Watts says it’s also been a case of supply and demand. Canada has
an ample supply of malt barley while other countries have lower
reserves and subsequently higher prices. For example, Australia
suffered through two consecutive dry years, reducing the size
of their barley crops. In addition, it is currently the subject of a
Chinese anti-dumping probe into barley exports that has prompted
China to look to other suppliers such as Canada and France.
Quality has been another major factor in increased exports
of Canadian malt barley to China. Canadian barley tends to have
higher protein and enzyme activity than barley produced in many
“Canada’s one of the top suppliers of premium
malting barley in the world…and we have seen
very substantial growth just in the last three or
four years for malting barley from China.”
– Peter Watts, Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre
COV E R F E AT U R E
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