Quality time for Australian barley

Improving the quality reputation of Australian barley and malt is increasingly important in the competitive global grain marketing environment.

Barley Australia (BA) is close to releasing a supply chain quality trademark that will enhance Australia’s malting barley and malt market international competitiveness.

Although Australia’s barley production is forecast to increase by 10% to around nine million tonnes this 2007/08 harvest, increasing international competitive marketing pressures has led to a national focus on barley quality.

BA executive manager, Linda Price, investigated the supply chain for malting barley in the UK and France in the context of branding and supply chain trade marking and applying and integrating quality assurance (QA) schemes.

Supported by a Grains Research and Development Corporation travel award, Price established how Australia could implement a similar system.

Barley Australia Assured Quality trademark

This led to the development of the Barley Australia Assured Quality trademark, providing customers with assurance that the product they receive conforms to internationally congruent standards.

The UK has been developing Assured UK Malt for around 10 years and the past four years have seen a significant roll-out and positive reception from maltsters and brewers.

Ms Price said the UK malting barley supply chain was set up so that during each stage, the owner or manager of the product parcel passed on a quality assured product that the next ‘link’ company could rely on for quality and integrity.

Significant food scares in Europe in the past decade led to a very high level of QA adoption in the grain supply chain in the UK, driven by both government and consumer pressures.

Keeping up with competition

Australia has had a more tolerant and less regulated environment for agricultural production and a by-product of this has been significantly less incentive for individual grain growers to adopt on-farm QA on a national scale.

However Barley Australia say it is vital that the Australian industry heeds international signals, watches what competitors are doing and responds accordingly as Australia competes with countries in a tough environment.

As key Asian malt markets continue to increase demand for beer and become more sophisticated in quality preferences and requirements, it will become essential for Australian growers to meet higher quality assurance and traceability standards.

The Barley Australia Assured Quality trademark is one that incorporates a series of HACCP compliant QA systems that will satisfy emerging market needs in terms of food safety and traceability.

While the ability to show Australia has a quality assured barley supply chain, with traceability back to the farm, does not mean increased barley prices, it will give Australian growers an opportunity to participate competitively in the market.

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