E-Malt.com News article: UK: Growing whisky industry requires more barley plantings in Scotland
Scotland’s second largest export behind oil-and-gas is whisky, but to make enough whisky to account for all the ‘wee drams’ enjoyed around the world, barley is an essential ingredient, abc.net.au reported on September 23.
The whisky industry is Scotland is worth £4 billion per year, with around 40 bottles shipped overseas each second according to the Scottish Whisky Association.
The last decade has seen demand for whisky expand although more recently that demand has levelled off.
The increase in sales over the last 10 years has translated to changes in Scottish paddocks with farmers dedicating more land to growing barley.
Demand for the crop is so high that it has even been sourced from England.
In Scotland about 500,000 hectares of cereal crops are grown with more than half of that land dedicated to growing spring barley.
The region produces about 1.7 million tonnes of barley a year, compared to Australia's average annual production of around seven million tonnes.
Aberdeenshire farmer Richard Stephen, from Scotland's north east, says barley yields can be up around nine tonnes per hectare.
"Getting a good period of weather to get the crop in and out is the biggest problem," he said.
"We don't tend to get drought or floods or anything like that."
"There's been more spring barley coming back in, because the whisky trade has expanded massively with Chinese and Indian exports.
"We're producing a lot more spring malting barley than we used to."
Mr Steven says malt barley prices are variable but a lot of contract barley has sold at £170 per tonne for malt.
Minimum till has become standard practice in Australia with less farmers ploughing paddocks to sow crops.
However, in the United kingdom, ploughing is still common practice when growing grain.
Perthshire farmer Adrian Ivory says minimum till hasn't caught on.
"We have found that with minimum till there's a lot of problems with bullet weeds. Our average field size on this farm is 38 acres, so that is important."
Generally the limiting factor to growing grain in Scotland is the wet, cold conditions.
However, this season warm conditions reduced yields at Mr Ivory's farm.
"This year we had a really hot July, which actually had a really negative effect on wheat yield.
"The wheat crops were looking fantastic but they just died on their feet.
Mr Ivory says the winter was mild compared to normal conditions where they would have a week of minus 10 degree conditions.
"This year we had one frost. The crops got a lot of disease, because there was no frost or snow to kill it off.
"Where we sit, it's north of Moscow. It can get cold here."
Unlike in Australia, farmers in the United Kingdom receive subsidies for the land they farm and the products they grow.
"Subsidies make up about 15 per cent of our income. We'd like to see them gone, but if they're gone from us, they have to go from the whole of Europe."
24 September, 2014