Malting barley is a particular type of barley used in making beer, flavourings, and extracts. Only a portion of the malting barley planted each year has the specific qualities needed to be selected for malt. To produce malt, barley kernels are soaked, germinated, and dried. Although the kernels look the same on the outside, this process causes chemical changes inside. The malted barley can now be used to make malt extract, beer and flour.

Like regular barley, hulless barley does have a hull, but it is only weakly attached to the kernel and therefore easily removed during harvesting. The hull is the inedible outer coating of the kernel that protects the seed like a jacket. Hulless barley is convenient and is becoming increasingly popular both for human nutrition and as feed for livestock.

Barley grain may be milled to produce barley flour, flakes, and bran. Milling involves crushing the seed kernel and separating the outside (bran) from the endosperm, which is the inside part of the kernel where food is stored to nourish a new plant. The endosperm is then ground to make flour. To improve its digestibility, barley grain is cracked or rolled for cattle feed and ground to make feed for pigs and chickens.

Barley straw is the dried stems of the barley plant after the head that holds the grain kernels has been removed. Straw is often used as a soft, dry bed for livestock. It can also be made into building materials, paper and fibre board. To make silage, the entire plant is cut down, piled, compacted, and then allowed to ferment. Fermentation preserves this highly nutritious feed for beef and dairy cattle.

Source: Barley Market Value Chain Profile. Find it on the Directorate Marketing web pages at

International business environment

  • The top ten barley producers are the EU (Germany, France, Spain and for now, the UK), the Russia Federation, Canada, Ukraine, Australia and Turkey. Top barley producers in Africa are Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia followed by South Africa and Egypt.
  • Barley is included in the “Grain: World Markets and Trade” circular available from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Statistics of global role players (countries) are listed. Production, consumption, exports etc are looked at. This circular is available on the Foreign Agricultural Service Home Page. The address is

South Africa: import and export

  • Export/import figures can be found on The Monthly Bulletin contains updated information.

Local business environment

Barley, a winter cereal crop, is mainly produced in the South Western Cape under dry land conditions. Two-thirds of our barley is produced in the areas around Caledon, Riviersonderend, Bredasdorp, Napier, Swellendam and Heidelberg. The remainder of the production is in the Northern Cape under irrigation (Vaalharts, Douglas, Barkley West and Rietrivier/Modderrivier). Barley is also grown by some small-scale farmers at Taung in the North West Province.

Barley is different from most, if not all, other agricultural commodities, as there is only one major barley buyer in South Africa, namely AB InBev, previously the South African Breweries Maltings (Pty) Ltd (SABM).

Being able to buy barley locally supports the local economy, is more efficient (less travel and packaging), ensures quicker delivery and secures a good quality of the end product. The size of the annual barley crop is one determining factor with regards to how much locally grown barley is used. Another factor is to what extent certain varieties, required for malting and brewing, can be produced under South African conditions.

Normally between 70 and 90% of barley produced in the south Western Cape is suited for malting purposes. This figure is directly dependant on the climatic conditions during the growing season. A record crop might be followed by several seasons of bad climatic conditions. It was to stabilise the fluctuations caused by total production in one geographical area that the crop is grown under irrigation in areas other than the south Western Cape.

Barley producers have a guaranteed market for a specified tonnage of malting quality barley per year, and a pricing mechanism linked to the wheat futures.

The barley area in the Western Cape expanded rapidly over the past three years, reaching 84 thousand hectares in 2016, with some expectations that this will increase to approximately 90 thousand hectares in 2017 (BFAP, 2017). Following the initial step change caused by the Alrode expansion, demand for malting barley is expected to grow at just under 2% per annum over the projection period. This implies a lesser reliance on imported barley relative to the past decade, with imports stabilising below 50 thousand tons per annum (BFAP, 2017).

The barley marketing season in South Africa commences on 1 October and ends on 30 September the following year. A statutory levy in terms of the marketing of Agricultural Products Act is applicable (R5.00/t barley). The levy is lower than in previous years as it no longer finances seed breeding research.
The BFAP Baseline Agricultural Outlook 2017 includes a look at the historic gross margin performance between winter crops in the Overberg region,and provides additional information related to crop competition in the Western Cape, by considering gross margins for wheat, barley and canola under different yield scenarios. Find the document at
Statistics (e.g. crop estimates, export/import etc) may be found on the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ website – take the “Branches” and “Administration” options at – and on the South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS) website –

For the newcomer

Ten small holder barley farmers from Gauteng and the North West have been on a mentoring programme for the past three years (2015-2017). The ARC-Small Grains (SG) visits them on a regular basis throughout the production season, giving practical information regarding soil analysis, fertiliser, good/bad insects. Dr Malan is the contact at 072 401 7536.

Find ARC-SG and other role player contact details under heading 6. Grower guidelines by the South African Barley Breeding Institute and others are listed under heading 7.

National strategy and government contact

In 2018 the Competition Commission is investigating a complaint brought by Grain SA for producers against AB InBev, this after AB InBev informed producers that they would be changing the pricing mechanism. Retaining the pricing formula linked to the wheat futures was one of the conditions set for AB InBev’s acquisition of SABMiller.

Barley featured in the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) report back on what had been accomplished in the agro-processing sector. Government, collaborating with the Foundation for African Business and Consumer Services (FABCOS) assisted in developing an incubator farm for barley production in Kimberly through R20m support it provided to Cape Malting House.

Source: the DTI’s IPAP 2015/16 – 2017/18 document

Role players

Associations & industry bodies

Training and research

  • AB InBev / SAB Maltings (SABM) Tel: 053 994 7967 Agricultural advisor Johannes Kokome does informal training, coaching and mentoring with the farmers at Taung and occasionally acts as guest lecturer at the Taung Agricultural College.
  • ARC-Small Grains (SG) Tel: 058 307 3400 The ARC-SG has a scheduled training course, usually in October, specifically for students and extension officers working with emerging farmers. Its research work covers plant breeding, the evaluation of cultivars, grain quality, plant physiology, tillage, weed science, plant pathology, entomology and yield potential.
  • Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Tel: 012 420 5021 The annual BFAP Baseline includes barley in its scenario possibilities. BFAP has a prototype farm in the Overberg region from which comparisons with wheat and canola (yield, profitability etc) are done.
  • Grain SA Tel: 0860 047 246 At Grain SA, training is done on barley production under irrigation.
  • NOSA Agricultural Services Tel: 033 345 8990/9238 Training and/or training materials are offered
  • South African Barley Breeding Institute (SABBI) Tel: 028 212 2943 Situated on the Farm Dunghye Park near Caledon, SABBI is managed by SABM. It is a not for profit company which receives grants from the Winter Cereal Trust. Find the “Research” option on the website. SABBI is responsible for the development of new varieties for the industry.
  • Stellenbosch University (i) Department of Agronomy Tel. 021 808 4803 (ii) Department of Food Science Tel: 021 808 3578
  • University of the Free State Department of Plant Sciences Tel: 051 401 2514
  • University of Pretoria Department of Plant and Soil Sciences Tel: 012 420 3770

Some companies involved

For a comprehensive list go to – take the “List of Co-workers” and then “Barley” menu options.

Websites and publications

  • Visit the websites listed earlier in this chapter. Role players like Overberg Agri Bedrywe have presentations on barley on their websites.
  • In addition to various reports, the following guidelines can also be downloaded from, website of the South African Barley Breeding Institute: (i) Guidelines for the Production of Malting Barley under Irrigation (ii) Production of Malting Barley: Winter Dryland (iii) Better Barley, Better Beer manual [international best practice guidelines for barley producers]
  • The Guidelines for the Production of Small Grains in the Summer Rainfall Region and the Guideline for the Production of Small Grains in the Winter Rainfall Region are highly comprehensive and essential publication. Barley production is included in the notes. The publication may be downloaded in English or Afrikaans from
  • Available from the ARC-Agricultural Engineering (ARC-AE) is the booklet “Agro-processing of Industrial Crops (chicory, coffee, sugar cane, tea)”. Visit or call 012 842 4017.
  • The BFAP Baseline Agricultural Outlook includes notes on barley production and graphs showing barley production, consumption, trade and producer prices. Find these at
  • Some grower notes , “Production guidelines barley”, can also be found at, under the “Resource Centre” option.
  • – SAGIS’s website: National stocks, producer deliveries, import, exports, consumption, weekly parity prices, etc. Historical information regarding this crop can also be found.
  • Find the annual Barley market value chain profile on the Directorate Marketing web pages at
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