Final Crop Report: German 2021 Spring Barley
Already in September 2021, the Braugersten-Gemeinschaft e.V. (German Brewing Barley Association) released an initial harvest report. It was based on preliminary analyses of “special harvest assessments” conducted by the state chambers of agriculture and agricultural institutes, as well as on qualitative data from individual sample batches collected by the German malting industry. Most stakeholders in the industry, however, considered that report to be much too optimistic and unreliable, largely because of the weather-related sluggish harvest and of the heterogeneity of the harvested product. Yet, after the completion of additional surveys and after further evaluation of all quality data from the 2021 harvest, much of the initial forecasts turned out be correct. Only in Bavaria, the portion of the barley harvest deemed of malting quality had to be revised downward by 50,000 MT as a result of the lower-than-expected average yield per hectare and of the extent of outgrowth at the senescence stage in late-harvested, over-ripe fields. Likewise, the state of Hesse is now expected to generate 9,000 MT less brewing barley than was forecast in September. In contrast, Rhineland-Palatinate is expected to generate some 15,000 MT more barley of malting quality than was forecast.
Overall, experts from the various regional associations now expect that some 1 million MT of this year’s total German spring barley harvest of 1.6 million MT will eventually be suitable for malting and brewing. The protein content averaged across all German states is about 10.5 percent, which is optimal; and fractional protein variations are also within average ranges. Only North-Rhine Westphalia is out of line with some 90 percent of its harvest having a protein content exceeding 11.5 percent. In general, however, the plumpness rating is unsatisfactory and below average across virtually all samples, with only 87.5 percent of the harvest meeting the plumpness threshold of ≥ 2.5 mm in kernel diameter. In the previous year, the share of plump kernels was 93.2 percent. A quick glance at the German malting industry, however, does not yet suggest any emerging patterns that would link the perceived discrepancy in the statistical plumpness assessment with the industry’s actual purchasing behavior.
As for the 2022 sowing period, experts on the advisory board of the Brewing Barley Association ventured a preliminary forecast, suggesting that the currently tight European brewing barley market will continue to sustain a substantial premium for top-quality barley versus feed barley. That premium currently hovers around 100 € per MT. When combined with general agricultural advantages of spring barley cultivation, this premium should provide positive impulses for malting barley cultivation in the coming year. In addition, the plentiful 2021 harvest allowed for a replenishing of feed barley reserves. In this context, it will also be important for the brewing and malting industry to provide new incentives for regional brewing barley cultivation by emphasizing long-term strategies as well as sustainability. Therefore, current efforts to develop regional concepts for securing raw materials for all German breweries large and small clearly represent a pioneering approach.