While the accreditation of two new popular barley varieties is certainly cause for cheer there remains another, and perhaps more important, hurdle for the new varieties to overcome - market acceptance and market demand.
Last week, Barley Australia announced that Compass and Spartacus CL had achieved malting accreditation in Australia. This means the varieties meet the minimum standards for a malting barley, however, it will be the end users that ultimately determine whether the new varieties meet their specific malting and brewing requirements.
At the moment, both Spartacus CL and Compass are undergoing market evaluation and acceptance in export markets. Feedback will be available later this year and this will be reflected in the premiums of these varieties throughout this year and into the 2018-19 harvest.
Planet and Banks (formerly IGB1305) varieties also passed the first stage of accreditation, with the final accreditation date targeted for March 2019. While Planet has obtained malting accreditation in other origins, it’s important for it to be evaluated under Australian conditions and against the key specifications for our major markets.
On the flipside, from an industry perspective, we need to ensure varieties move towards rationalisation otherwise segregation pressure on the supply chain will affect services available at harvest.
With two new varieties accredited this year and possibly another two varieties accredited in 2019 it is important that older outclassed varieties are rationalised. Hectares of Hindmarsh dropped to seven per cent in 2017-18 and Scope to 17 per cent in 2017-18.
Meanwhile, a frequent comment often expressed by end users of Australian malting barley is that rapid changes to malting barley varieties in Australia is concerning.
Specifically, it can be costly and time consuming for maltsters and brewers to continuously trial new varieties, with it taking up to two or even three years to gain full acceptance and confidence in the variety.
The brewer needs to produce a consistent product that meets all their key characteristics and it takes time and repetition to ensure a new variety will be able to achieve these targets.
While the rapid turnover of varieties is frustrating for customers in the short term, in the long term Australian malting barley runs the risk of becoming substitutable with other origins.
Currently it’s too early to predict the segregation requirements for the 2018-19 harvest however Spartacus CL is proving to be a popular variety for growers. The uptake of Compass in Western Australia to date has been limited, unless production increases in 2018, segregations are unlikely at harvest.
The accreditation of Spartacus CL and Compass means it’s even more important for all growers to submit their crop estimates so CBH can ensure efficient storage planning at this year’s harvest.