The amount of Australian barley exported to China every year could fill 4.5 Melbourne Cricket Grounds, 2900 Olympic sized swimming pools, or 56 million Eskies.
It's Australia's largest barley market, which is why the Australian barley industry is so committed to maintaining and enhancing the long-term relationship with Chinese brewers, maltsters, processors and traders through continual technical support.
In June, the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) and Barley Australia (BA) hosted two Australian Barley Technical Conferences in Guangzhou and Beijing, in collaboration with: Seed Force; the University of Adelaide; and Victorian grain grower Simon Tickner.
Three Australian government agencies - the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and Austrade - provided valuable support.
Attendee numbers on the rise
AEGIC barley markets manager Mary Raynes says the conferences have been run for three years and, in that time, attendee numbers have tripled.
"These events continue to be well-supported, as they are an effective way to help maintain and enhance the excellent relationship between the Australian barley industry and the Chinese malting and brewing industry in the long-term," Ms Raynes says.
"This year's event again proved to be popular among leaders in the Chinese beer industry, with 130 delegates choosing to take part, including representatives of brewing companies, maltsters, traders and students."
Ms Raynes says China imports 4.6 million tonnes of Australian barley worth $1.3 billion a year on average.
"Like Australians, Chinese people love a beer and premium Australian malting barley is in high demand," she says.
"Feed barley is an even larger export commodity and this sector continues to be strong.
"Helping Chinese traders, maltsters and brewers boost their understanding of the production, accreditation and processing of Australian barley helps enhance the value of Australian barley in the long-term."
Like Australians, Chinese people love a beer and premium Australian malting barley is in high demand.
Highly dynamic industry
"The Australian barley industry continues to be highly dynamic, seeking to provide varieties that meet the needs of producers, maltsters and brewers," Ms Raynes says.
"This high pace of change means it is essential that we continue to engage."
At both conferences, Ms Raynes and Barley Australia chief executive officer Dr Megan Sheehy provided historical, current and forecasted barley variety planting trends, and outlined upcoming changes to the Australian barley accreditation system - which will deliver new varieties to market more rapidly.
AEGIC barley malting quality research biochemist Dr Qisen Zhang provided an overview of his research into the possibility of using existing barley grain protein more efficiently.
Victorian grower Simon Tickner gave an insight into the barley industry from a grower's perspective, speaking about factors influencing farmers' decision-making processes, including:
- price signals;
- yield and other agronomic characteristics;
- grain protein levels; and
- breeding advances.
Seed Force technical services manager David Leah provided an overview of Australia's newly accredited malting barley variety RGT Planet (PBR), which is already grown commercially in 31 countries for malting purposes.
According to Mr Leah, RGT Planet (PBR) is high-yielding in medium and high-rainfall zones, competitive in low-rainfall zones and is suitable for both medium and high-fermentability brewing (sugar and starch adjunct).
The University of Adelaide's Associate Professor Matthew Tucker spoke about his team's research showing that grain development varies between varieties, and how this might be exploited to subtly vary the level of germination-related enzymes.
Professor Tucker's research is also showing that malt flavour in Australian barley does not only depend upon kilning, but also on variety.
NOTE: AEGIC is an initiative of GRDC and the Western Australian State Government.
More information:Mary Raynes, AEGIC, 0408 591 193, Mary.Raynes@aegic.org.au