Australian barley

Australia is a dominant player in world barley export markets, representing 30-40 percent of the world’s malting barley trade and 20 percent of the feed barley trade.

Demand for high quality barley is strong both in Australia and internationally with Australian barley well recognised for its excellent malt and feed qualities. Australia produces two-row spring barley that is plump and bright with moderate protein content. Harvested grain has low moisture content with long storage viability.

The Australian barley industry operates under a voluntary accreditation scheme, managed through Barley Australia, which evaluates new barley varieties in order to gain accreditation as an Australian malting variety.


9-10 million tonnes of barley is produced in Australia each year – grown over almost four million hectares across the southern grain belt of Australia. Of that average annual production, about 30-40% is graded as malting barley.

Claiming more than 30% of the world’s malting barley trade, Australia is the world’s largest exporter of malting barley. Recognition of Australian malting barley extends to its ease of processing. The grain has a high germination rate, is easy to malt, and accredited varieties have rapid modification and produce malt with a high level of extract and a range of enzyme levels to suit different style end-products.


Australian barley is highly regarded around the world and is used mainly in the beer brewing industry and for animal feed. Uses for Australian malted barley include:

  • Beer
  • Shochu, whiskey and other distilled spirits
  • Malt extract
  • Malt vinegar
  • Confectionary such as Maltesers
  • Flavoured sweet drinks such as Milo
  • Breakfast cereals

What is malt?

Malt is produced by soaking barley grains in water until they germinate and begin to sprout a new plant. The grains are then quickly dried in hot air (kilned) to stop the germination process. This process causes chemical reactions which create the enzymes and sugars needed for the brewing process.


Approximately eight million metric tonnes (mmt) of barley is produced in Australia each year; grown over nearly four million hectares across Australia. Of that average annual production, approximately 30–40% achieves malting grade with the remainder as food and feed barley. Barley is usually sown during May and June and grows through the winter months in Australia. It is widely grown in rotation with wheat, canola, oats and pulses. Harvesting can start in northern growing regions during October and progresses southwards to be completed during December.

Export markets

Australia is a major exporter of barley, representing more than 30 percent of the world’s malting barley trade and 20 percent of the feed barley trade.

AEGIC research

AEGIC, together with other barley research organisations, is conducting research to improve the quality, processing performance and value of Australian barley; to mitigate the risk of quality defects; facilitate the efficient malting evaluation of new breeding lines; and to better understand our export markets, and their requirements.

Top photo: GRDC / Evan Collis