Barley is the second largest broadacre crop in Western Australian after wheat. Barley production is broadly segregated into two categories - malting barley and feed barley - based on the variety planted and then for malting varieties if the quality at harvest makes malting specifications.
There are two malting plants in Western Australia, Joe White in Forrestfield and Kirin in Welshpool. The Joe White facility is the largest barley malting facility in the southern hemisphere. Between the two plants, about 250 000 tonnes of barley are malted each year, with the majority of the malt being exported.
A national pilot malting facility established in WA in 2010 has enabled smaller quantities of malting barley to be tested using commercial malting processes. The pilot plant will speed the identification of promising new malting barley varieties and also enable the beer quality attributes of WA malting varieties to be demonstrated to export customers.
The majority of barley produced in WA is exported, delivering the state about $800-900 million in export revenue. Malt exports generate around another $120 million each year for the State. In 2014/15 the top 6 export markets were China, Japan, Kuwait, South Africa, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates. These markets accounted for 98% of all WA barley exports.
Typically 40% of barley produced is delivered as malting grade destined for the Chinese and Japanese markets. Australia is a leading supplier of malting barley to China - exporting about 60% of Chinese requirement each year. As the nation's largest producer of malting barley Western Australia provides the majority of these exports to China.
Around 60% of production is delivered as feed grade - the majority of which is typically sent to the Middle East although China has emerged as the major market for feed barley in recent years.