While there has always been a natural link between beer consumption and demand for Australian malting barley, it now seems the relationship has become dependent on how much beer the Chinese are drinking.
Chinese beer drinkers and Australian grain growers have developed a common interest in beer, with one million tonnes of this year’s barley harvest exported to China.
More than 60% of exported malting barley is bound for Chinese breweries, which are being pushed hard by China’s astounding growth in demand for beer.
Chinese beer consumption is growing at 10% a year and the supplier quenching most of that thirst is Australia, with 1.15 million tonnes of malting barley expected to be exported to China in 2005-06. The next biggest, Canada, will supply less than half that.
Barley marketer Alan Dagg told a Grains Research and Development Corporation seminar that while Australian barley growers compete with Canadians and Europeans, they still retain a healthy lead over them. However, competition is not the only factor that could slow China’s thirst for malting barley from Australia.