Home-grown barley is 'best in the world' amid global shortages

Bob King, commercial director of Great Ryburgh-based Crisp Malting Group, pictured during the barley harvest

Bob King, commercial director of Great Ryburgh-based Crisp Malting Group, pictured during the barley harvest - Credit: Crisp Malt

Global shortages of beer-making malting barley could boost Norfolk growers who produced some of the best crops in the world this year, said a leading maltster.

A catastrophic failure of the Canadian crop and supply shortages in Europe - aggravated by drought in the Czech Republic, Poland and Sweden - had left the world short of malting barley, said Bob King, commercial director of Great Ryburgh-based Crisp Malting Group.

But he told Holt and District Farmers’ Club that the home-grown crop had been the best in the world, for both yield and quality.

As a result, prices for malting barley were likely to be over £200 per tonne for the next harvest in 2022, he suggested.

In addition, the surging price of fertiliser might encourage growers to plant more spring barley rather than second wheats.

After Canada’s crop was hit by record temperatures in July, it left the United States short of malting barley. Now, the industry was hoping that southern hemisphere crops in Australia and Argentina could help bridge the global shortfall.

Mr King said he hoped that the county’s biggest maltster could avoid production disruptions amid the current energy crisis, particularly as it is a major user of gas. It was last hit in 2008 when gas supply was cut for 10 to 12 days.

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But after the horrible 2020 harvest, the prospects for specialist growers in the heart of Norfolk’s malting barley country were very bright, he added.

The meeting also heard the results of the club's annual malting barley competition.

Chris Borrett, of grain merchants Adams and Howling, said a total of 48 samples had been entered.

Holt’s supreme champion sample of Flagon winter barley was grown by Ed Jones, of Harold Jones Farms in Little Witchingham. It will be judged for the supreme inter-club title against Stalham Farmers’ Club best in the new year.

The spring barley prize was won by GW Harrold from Melton Constable, with a sample of Laureate variety.

More than 30 club members met at Holt Rugby Club for the first time, having previously met at the town’s Feathers Hotel for the past 70 years.

There was a noted departure from the top table with retirement of former president Bill van Poortvliet, who stood down from the committee having served the club for the last 40 years.

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