Malting barley, due to its limited usage and high-quality requirements, is a unique niche product in the international grain market and represents only about 1.5% of the total world grain production.
The world largest grower and supplier of malting barley is the EU28, whereby most of the productions is consumed domestically and only 3-6 million tons are available for the export markets. The major EU28 exporting countries are France, United Kingdom and Denmark.
Outside the EU28, the major exporters are Australia with about 2 - 2.5 million tons and Canada with about 0.5 million tons annual surplus. Over the last years Argentina has firmed its position as a strong and reliable world malting barley supplier. Also Ukraine and maybe even Russia have the potential to become producer and exporter of quality barley, whereas the production in North America and Europe is about to decline.
The world requires every year about 30 million tons of malting barley to supply primarily the international malting industry and to a very small extent directly the food industry for human consumptions. The demand for malting barley follows the malting capacity, which is owned mainly by commercial malt companies or brewing groups that operate internal maltings.
As of 2015, 60% of the world malting capacity is allocated in Europe, including Russia, followed by Asia with 22%, whereby most of the Asian capacity is in China. North America, including Mexico with 16%, follows as the third largest continent of reasonable size. South America’s malting capacity represents 7% of world production, but growing. Africa and Australia together share the remaining 6%, to complete the picture.
Internationally, about 4.0 to 6.0 million tons of malting barley is traded per annum. China is by far the largest importer of about 2.8 to 3.5 million tons, followed by Latin America (Colombia, Peru, Brazil & Ecuador), with an annual demand of about 800 td to 1.0 million tons including intercontinental imports. The US imports a maximum of 450 td tons which is normally a cross boarder trade with its neighbour Canada. The additional volumes traveling around the globe are split between imports to South Africa, Turkey, Mexico and a number of smaller importing countries in Asia and Africa. Occasionally, even Russia and the Ukraine have to rely on high-quality imported malting barley.