World barley area is to increase, reflecting a quest to rebuild
inventories which are, among major exporting countries, on course for a 17-year
The International Grains Council, in a round of forecasts
for crop plantings in 2013-14, pegged barley area at 53.1m hectares, a rise of
700,000 hectares year on year.
The estimate reflected in part the mixed impact of a better
winter in the northern hemisphere, where "no major winterkill has been reported
so far", the IGC said.
While in the European Union the lack of frost damage has
limited the land up for reseeding with spring barley for reasons of winter cold,
in the Ukraine, it has at least constrained losses in winter barley, which accounts
for about one-third of plantings.
"After a shortfall of the previous season, the barley area
in Ukraine is projected to rebound to about 4.0m hectares," the IGC said.
In the European Union itself - the world's top barley
producer, well ahead of the former Soviet Union, and Canada - sowings will be kept
steady at about 12.4m hectares by the wet which prevented autumn crop plantings
in much of the UK and parts of France and Scandinavia.
The IGC foresaw "a projected increase in spring barley plantings
to replace lost flood-damaged wheat fields, mostly in the UK - compensating for
a slightly lower area of winter varieties".
UK farmers are seen by many analysts as on course to sow
their biggest spring barley area since at least the 1990s.
Meanwhile, in Canada, farmers, "encouraged by good returns,
are also expected to increase barley plantings", by some 200,000 hectares to
3.2m hectares, "with the harvested area recovering to average levels of around
3.0m hectares", the IGC said.
The IGC estimate is in line with a forecast from Canada's
farm ministry, AAFC, of sowings of 3.15m hectares, and harvested area of 2.85m
AAFC sees domestic barley prices averaging Can$220-250 a
tonne in 2013-14, compared with Can$220-250 a tonne in the current season.
Farmers' slightly more favourable view of barley comes amid
prospects of a sharp decrease in prices of some other spring crops, notably
corn, which the US Department of Agriculture sees averaging $4.80 a bushel in
the domestic market in 2013-14, down 33% year on year.
World barley stocks will end 2012-13 at a five-year low of
23.6m tonnes, with the drop in inventories in major exporting countries
particularly severe, of 14% to 12.5m tonnes, the lowest in 17 years.
"Much of the decline is in the EU, where a big export
programme is set to more than offset higher production, leading to particularly
tight stocks at 6.5m tonnes," the council said.
The level of inventories in exporting countries tends to
have a disproportionate effect on prices, given that these are the supplies
available to the international trade, so have a large impact on determining the
degree of competition in the market.