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 producers of barley is the EU, followed by Russia, Canada, Australia and the Ukraine. The top exporters of barley are EU, Australia, Russia and Ukraine, and Canada. The biggest importers are China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the EU (USDA, 2021).
Further reading:
  • The annual Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline includes an overview of the global barley situation and trends.
  • 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

  • Under the new EPA (see “Export” page), 10 thousand tonnes can be imported duty free from the EU.
  • Export/import figures can be found on The Monthly Bulletin contains updated information.
  • South Africa is nearly completely self-sufficient in barley requirements, and is expected to be so by 2030 (BFAP, 2021).


Local business environment

Barley is mainly produced in the South Western Cape under dry land conditions. 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.

Normally between 70 and 90% of barley produced in the south Western Cape is suited for malting purposes. This figure is directly dependent 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. The climate volatility remains a concern (Absa, 2021).

There is one major barley buyer in South Africa, namely ABInBev, previously the South African Breweries Maltings (Pty) Ltd (SABM). 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 lockdowns have placed ABInBev under financial pressure and reduced malting capacity, but there are suggestions of positive growth over the longer term (Absa, 2021; BFAP, 2021).

Barley production forms part of a crop rotation cycle and usually supplements a livestock component, like dairy or sheep. After the harvest, the animals either graze the stubble in the land, or it is baled for them. This “increases the marketable weight of livestock without any significant additional cost” (Absa, 2021). For now, surplus barley sold for feed trades at around 35% below barley sold for malting purposes (BFAP, 2021).

The volatility of the maize price (the result of the rand-dollar exchange rate) affects the price of feed barley.

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.


Further reference:


  • Absa Agribusiness. 2021, June 25. “An overview of South Africa’s barley industry”. Farmer’s Weekly, pp. 26, 27.
  • The annual BFAP Baseline Agricultural Outlook includes a look at the gross margin performance between winter crops in the Western Cape – wheat, barley and canola. Find the document at
  • Statistics (e.g. crop estimates, export/import etc) may be found on the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD)’ website – take the “Branches” and “Administration” options at – and on the South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS) website –
The Southern African Grain Laboratory

Farmer points of interest

Consult the tables in the Production Guidelines, issued by the ARC-SG (see “Websites & publications” heading).

The following notes are summarised from the SG’s Guideline for the Production of Small Grains in the Summer Rainfall Region, written by GJ Kotzé.

Soil Preparation

It must be emphasised that a fine and even seedbed be prepared. An uneven seedbed will cause uneven development of the crop and in the end, uneven ripening and quality.

The barley cultivars Puma and Cocktail are currently the cultivars for commercial production of malting barley under irrigation. The seed is treated with a fungicide as well as an insecticide. This will protect it for some time against insects during storage before planting and against fungal diseases for the first couple of weeks after it is planted.

Planting Practices

It is important that barley is not planted deeper than 3cm. The deeper you plant it the more energy is being used for germination and tillering is therefore restricted.

Depending on the status of the seedbed, you should plant between 60kg to 100kg for every ha. The average recommended density is 80 kg to the ha.


The crop’s minimum acidity requirement must be met. For barley, the soil acidity requirement is a pH of 5,5 (KCI medium). Lime application should then be to create a pH of 5,5 to 6,0. Too high a pH could lead to zinc and manganese deficiencies, and barley is very sensitive to this.

A soil sample will tell you how much phosphorus to apply. If there is more than 30 mg of citric acid soluble phosphorus in a kg of soil, then you can apply 12 to 15 kg to every ha. 6 kg per ha can be applied where the sample shows your soil to be below 20 mg per kg. 4 kg phosphorus per ha can be applied for each 1 mg/kg where the analysis is below 30 mg/ha.

According to most research, top dressing of nitrogen (nitrogen fertilisation applied after emergence of the crop) benefits the crop, especially where overhead irrigation is being used, and where the soil is lighter and sandier. For the best yield, a total nitrogen fertilisation of 130 kg to 150 kg per hectare should be given.

The first nitrogen is applied just before or during planting. Two thirds of the total nitrogen that you will give the crop should be then while the rest is applied from 6 weeks after emergence till as late as the flag leaf stage, depending on the clay percentage of the soil.

For a more detailed exploration of fertilisation, see the Guideline for the production of small grains in the Summer Rainfall Regions mentioned under “Publications & Websites”.


Barley is very sensitive to the competition of weeds. Sort out those weeds as soon as they germinate! Hoelon and Grasp are the only herbicides to use for controlling grass weeds. Never use Topic and Puma on barley. In fact, make sure you read the label because only herbicides registered specifically for barley should be used. Barley is also very particular about the dosage. If you apply too much herbicide, your barley can be damaged. If you apply too little, you stand the risk that the particular weeds can build up resistance to the specific herbicide.


The Russian wheat aphid and some other plant aphids are natural enemies of barley. If they appear there early, apply an insecticide too when you are using the herbicide. Bollworm can also be a problem and will lead to your crop being down-graded. If 3-4 bollworms are present in a meter row, apply a chemical treatment.

Fungal Control

It is important to harvest the crop as soon as it is ready (13% moisture content) so that the grain is not exposed to rain during harvesting. Fungal contamination (and with it, toxic substances which are not good for human or livestock consumption) can occur when the crop is exposed to rain during harvesting.


Skillful irrigation can give you an optimum crop – yield and quality. It is important not to stop irrigating too early (the last irrigation should be given when the whole plant is nearly discoloured).


Excessively fast drum speeds and excessively tight concave settings should be avoided when harvesting. It is essential that the grain is not skinned.

The barley must be harvested in bulk and delivered at the depot as stipulated on the contract or as communicated during the growing season. Here it is sampled, classified and graded. The producer then gets paid according to quality (there is a sliding scale system) and quantity.

Source: Willem Otto, ARC-SG, and the SG’s Guideline for the Production of Small Grains in the Summer Rainfall Region.

For the newcomer

  • The ICCO Cooperation is running the BE-FED, a 3 year project funded by Heineken, Soufflet & the Dutch government, for emerging farmers to produce malt barley for Heineken beer in South Africa.
  • The ARC-Small Grains (SG) runs a smallholder mentoring programme. Dr Malan is the contact at 072 401 7536.
  • Find ARC-SG and other role player contact details under the role players heading. Grower guidelines by the South African Barley Breeding Institute and others are listed under the “Role players” heading.

National strategy and government contact

Barley featured in a previous Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) when the then 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.

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) 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) 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 At Grain SA, training is done on barley production under irrigation.
  • PCI Agricultural Services Training and/or training materials are offered
  • South African Barley Breeding Institute (SABBI) 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 (ii) Department of Food Science
  • University of the Free State Department of Plant Sciences
  • University of Pretoria Department of Plant and Soil Sciences


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 on this page. 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
  • CD Roms from the ARC-PPR (Plant Protection Research) include: (i) Crop Pests, Vol. 4: Field Crops and Pastures Pastures  (ii) Medically Important Spiders And Scorpions Of Southern Africa. Write to booksales [at] or infopri [at]
  • Available from the ARC-Agricultural Engineering (ARC-AE) is the booklet “Agro-processing of Cereal Crops Vol. 3 (Barley, sesame, poppy seed, rye)”. Visit or call 012 842 4017.
  • Consult the AgriSETA Learner Guide Primary Agriculture “Harvesting agricultural crops”.
  • 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.
  •’s website: National stocks, producer deliveries, import, exports, consumption, weekly parity prices, etc. Historical information regarding this crop can also be found.
  • Find “The Potential Impact of a Breeding and Technology Levy Collection System in South Africa”, a report by BFAP for the South African Cultivar and Technology Agency (SACTA), at
  • An annual Barley Market Value Chain Profile used to be available on the Directorate Marketing web pages at


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