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Tightening supplies push barley export sales to triple last year

Coarse grain trade hit record levels with 2007/08 numbers increasing by more than 4 million metric tons this month to a record 115 million, according to USDA. The department reported that global demand for feed grains has been outstripping production and U.S. corn exports have filled the bulk of this additional demand. Specifically, corn trade increased by 3.7 million tons to a record 90 million tons (3.5 billion bushels). However, President and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council Ken Hobbie said corn producers are not the only beneficiaries in the current export scenario.

“As a result of other countries, specifically the Ukraine, having a poor barley crop this year due to natural calamities, customers are relying on U.S. farmers to fulfill demand,” said Hobbie. “Tightening foreign supplies and increasing prices have boosted U.S. barley export sales to triple last year’s level.”

In the past month world barley prices have jumped $80 per ton, which is a 25 percent increase, to a record $350 per ton. The Ukraine previously accounted for 16 percent of world exports, but due to the poor crop this year export restrictions were imposed to ensure that there are sufficient domestic supplies to soften internal prices. In addition, Australia, which normally supplies one-third of world exports, is facing lower crop prospects and depleted old crop exportable supplies, according to USDA statistics.

Hobbie said council programs taking place across the globe helped educate feed mills and other importers of the benefits of U.S. barley as a feed alternative. For example, the council currently has feeding trials and other programs to encourage the use of barley in the livestock sector in Mexico, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam. Hobbie said the council is planning to conduct feeding trials in Mexico using barley and distiller’s dried grains. In December trials will be conducted in Vietnam’s aquaculture sector using barley as the feed ingredient.

Free trade agreements currently up for review by Congress will create additional opportunities for U.S. barley producers, according to Kevin Natz, USGC director of trade policy.

“Congress granting final approval of free trade pacts with Peru, Panama, Colombia and South Korea will give us an opportunity to heighten demand and broaden access for feed barley,” he said.

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