BARLEY looks set for a tough future with the global area of the crop harvested having dropped 11.5 per cent when comparing 2000-2004 and 2015-2019.
Over the same period, other grains and oilseeds have risen 13pc on average.
At the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia Barley Forum on Monday, it was highlighted that in a global context, farmers seem to be turning their backs on producing barley.
While it's possible to argue that's potentially supportive of price, ultimately if less barley is grown globally, then end users tend to leave it out of their management strategies and start to look at alternatives.
Locally the winter crop planting of barley has been more consistent, with WA sowing about 1.5 million hectares each year, with about 4mh sown Australia wide.
Since China imposed tariffs on Australian barley, the production area has declined with the crop this year making up about 24pc of total hectares sown, however that's still an increase on 2013 when barley made up 21pc.
Speaking at the forum, CBH chief marketing officer Jason Craig said the blessing in disguise of losing the Chinese market was that the number of barley markets Australia was now getting access to, provided more diversification than it had experienced in at least 20 years.
"Despite not having China, Australia has already exported over 5.8 million tonnes of barley this year and we are looking to export more than 8.3mt by the end of the season," Mr Craig said.
"Saudi Arabia makes up about 30pc of that and the next biggest market is Japan, both of those are feed markets, so it's important to note it is now a market driven more by feed barley than malt."
With WA's reliance on bulk and container exports across all commodities, but particularly barley, maintaining market access is imperative and it's critical the industry is able to reach a diverse range of customers.
Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre barley and oats program manager Jack King said it was about industry having all of those gates open so barley could flow to a range of markets.
"When we have that we mitigate the supply chain, political and market risks," Mr King said.
"By mitigating those risks, we can continue to promote the Australian barley varieties which do suit a range of markets.
"Australian growers are more exposed to risk than their counterparts overseas, so this is a really important aspect from an industry wide point of view to make sure we're providing all options for our grain to keep flowing."
Moving forward, a key part of maintaining that market access will include ensuring a sustainable supply chain.
The corporate social responsibility protocols of end users will increasingly drive demand down the supply chain, with the carbon emissions debate and the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification program, and others like it, to continue to draw attention.
Mr Craig said there was a lot of opportunity for WA growers and the industry alike, particularly in the malting barley space.
"The brewing industry and even the maltsters are showing a lot of leadership in the sustainability and greenhouse gas space," he said.
"As an industry, we should take hold of that - we have the systems and processes in place and we have some of the best growers of malting barley in the world, so there's this great opportunity to get out in front."
Going hand-in-hand with sustainability is the idea of traceability, with processors wanting to get as close to the grower as possible.
To do that, end users are starting to run their own procurement programs direct to the grower.
It's something which has mainly been seen on the domestic front so far and adds an element of complexity to the supply chain as the brewer is controlling the pricing mechanism a lot more.
"From a grower's perspective, there is opportunity there to leverage some price bonuses, but at the same time it comes with an additional level of responsibility and additional administrative tasks in terms of compliance to meet the requirements of those programs," Mr King said.
"Going forward, export markets are also going to want to see a higher level of traceability in the barley they're buying from Australia."
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