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Marketing the 2021 barley crop year

Geoff Backman, Business Development and Markets Manager | Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions

Alberta Barley works annually with other provincial barley commissions and the Canadian Malt Barley Technical Centre to promote Canada’s malt barley to international buyers. These efforts provide opportunities to inform buyers as to the quality of Alberta’s malt barley, the availability of new barley varieties and the use of progressive farming practices by Canadian farmers.

In the past, this work has focused on bringing international buyers to Alberta to see our crops first-hand and engage with Canadian farmers about what is happening on the ground. This discussion has also provided opportunities for international buyers to share what makes barley valuable to them, allowing us to refine the promotional information we provide. With continual efforts promoting Canadian barley, it is well known as an available and dependable product. The result is that international buyers look to Canadian barley when production issues develop in other supply regions. This shift has led to higher demand for Canadian barley and better farm gate prices for the Canadian farmer. Moving forward, we continue to work with international buyers to maintain Canadian barley as their primary choice.

In regards to promotion during the 2021-22 crop year, Alberta Barley, along with other provincial barley commissions and national organizations, will be providing a wide spectrum of information that international buyers are interested to hear about. As a collective, we will be showcasing new varieties that are attractive to international buyers, specifically AAC Connect, CDC Fraser, and CDC Churchill. These varieties have highly sought-after attributes for the malting process, such as high bushel weights, high friability, good wort colour and extraction rate, and low turbidity and beta glucan levels.

International buyers continue to provide feedback that their customers are concerned not only with the product’s quality but want assurance that the product’s ingredients were produced in a responsible and environmentally sustainable manner. Starting in the promotion of the 2021-22 crop year, we will be showcasing how farmers produce barley responsibly from start to finish. Information will be provided on the growing year, including when and how the barley crop is seeded to give it the best opportunity for success, an overview of the conditions during the growing year, and the timing and approach to harvest. There will also be an overview included on how fertilizer usage is important for yield and protein content, and how in-crop spraying is used to manage disease and pest pressures to maintain quality. Finally, we will highlight that the ideal cold and dry storage conditions of the Canadian Prairies allow for the long-term preservation of barley quality.

When the COVID-19 outbreak began in 2020 and doors to international travel closed, Canadian barley organizations were forced to shift the promotion of barley to online formats. Through the website barleyharvest.ca and multiple online video calls, Canadian barley promotion was able to continue. For promotion of the 2021 crop year, online promotion will continue as international travel continues to be difficult to navigate. As the 2021 barley harvest is completed, online information for international buyers is rapidly being updated. Thinking towards promotion for 2022, we hope to offer in-person events for buyers as we have in the past. However, for the time being, Canada’s barley organizations continue to innovate digital ways to showcase some of the world’s finest barley.