Australian malting barley cargo heads to EU

Liz Wells, April 11, 2024

The Lyric Poet nears the berth in Geelong on Monday to fill the remaining hatches with barley ahead of its voyage to Rotterdam. Photo: Trevor Perryman

A PANAMAX of Australian malting barley is on its way to Rotterdam to help shore up near-term supplies ahead of what is expected to be a late start to Europe’s own harvest.

Weighing in at 60,000 tonnes, the cargo loaded in Port Kembla and Geelong.

RGT Planet, a French variety favoured by maltsters globally, is believed to have filled most or all of the hatches.

Trade sources say the competitiveness of Australian pricing, and the quality of grain from a kind harvest in terms of malting quality have made Australian barley stack up for the EU buyer.

“The underlying aspect is that malthouses around the port can price offshore grain from outside the EU at quite competitive prices,” Kardinia Group Consulting principal Trevor Perryman said.

“I think there’s an interest to look outside of Europe from a risk point of view, and the progressive maltster has a concern about the traditional supply chain with climate change.”

Heavy rain since autumn has made this season a tough one for barley in parts of the EU, which produces around one third of the global crop.

“The story I keep hearing is that it’s too wet for their spring crops.”

Aside from a likely impact on yield in some regions, wet conditions during Europe’s planting window and growing season are likely to delay the harvest peak.

“The background to it is the European users of malting barley are positioning themselves to look at options outside Europe as a tactic to deal with risk.”

The Lyric Poet berthed on Monday at GrainCorp’s Geelong terminal to fill up with malting barley ahead of its voyage to The Netherlands. Photo: Trevor Perryman

On top of what looks like it will be a late local crop, EU maltsters also have lower-than-normal carryout stocks to call on as as a buffer because the EU became a volume exporter to China while tariffs were in place on Australian barley.

Australia is already a volume supplier of canola to the EU biodiesel market, and malting barley, often produced by the same growers, fits the EU’s sustainability credentials.

Whether other Australian cargoes to Europe follow this season remains to be seen.

“Issues with the French crop are not getting any better today, with spring barley-crop ratings in a terrible state, and production estimates dropping,” Flexi Grain pool manager Sam Roache said.

“Likewise, Ukraine production is set to drop around 30 percent year on year too, so the limited China barley supplying countries – Australia, France, Argentina, Canada and Ukraine – are tightening significantly, which will make for interesting watching.”

ABARES estimates Australia 2023-24 barley crop at 10.8 million tonnes (Mt), and industry sources have said a larger-than-normal proportion totalling perhaps as much as 3Mt has made malting specs.

The quality profile has made for a marketer’s dream, with China removing its tariffs on Australian barley last year in time to return as the volume buyer.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, Australia has shipped it 3.6Mt of barley, including 1.1Mt of malting, from October 1 to February 29, the opening months of the marketing year.

Australia’s Oct-Feb barley exports to all destinations total 4.52Mt, including 1.44Mt of malting.

As seen in the latest ABS data, Australia shipped China 1.16Mt of malting and feed barley in total in December, with volume trending down since then.

Planting of Australia’s 2024-25 barley crop is expected to start in coming weeks.


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  1. BONNENFANT Christine, April 11, 2024

    Very interesting article. Is it the first vessel of malting barley shipped to Europe for this crop? Thanks.

    • Liz Wells, April 12, 2024

      Hello Christine. Yes, we believe it is the first for this season. A cargo or two often goes when Europe is having, or has had, a difficult growing season. We think the last one, possibly a part cargo with canola, went in 2022.

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