When you think of heavy beer consumption, you probably picture an Irish pub, the Australian outback, or a Canadian campfire.
However, China has developed a taste for suds, and that’s good news for malt barley producers. As the most populous nation in the world, Chinese demand for beer can translate into significant increases in demand for barley.
In 2016 alone, China went through a whopping 45.6 billion liters of beer – in comparison, Australians consumed a paltry 1.9 billion liters in the same time frame.
To put that in perspective, the Chinese drank enough beer to fill 18,280 Olympic-sized swimming pools – talk about a beer gut!
The average Chinese citizen drinks about 32 liters of beer per year (the Czech Republic wins the booziest nation, with a per capita consumption of beer at 142.6 liters per person per year).
While the Chinese drink less beer per capita, the sheer size of their population (almost 1.4 billion, or 18% of the world’s total population) means China has become thirsty for malt barley.
The burgeoning Chinese middle class has become a valuable market with huge purchasing power. When the craft beer trend hit China, the effect was immediate and drastic. In the past few years, Chinese production of craft beer has increased by 25%! Accordingly, demand for malt barley has also skyrocketed. In 2017, China imported seven million tonnes of barley, mainly from producers like Australia, the US, and Canada.
Australian producers have taken notice of China’s rising thirst. Australian grain and trade associations have begun hosting technical workshops to promote Australian products to Chinese brewers and malters.
Some Aussie producers have raised eyebrows by publicly stating that Australia should support China (and not the US) in WTO trade actions.
Clearly, Australian barley producers understand just how important China is within the global barley market. As we’ve mentioned before, protectionist trade policies by the Trump Administration are only hurting American farmers. Hopefully, US trade officials will realize this as well, and reach more productive trade agreements with the world’s largest (and thirstiest) population.