Barley is the predominant cereal crop grown in Scotland, contributing about a quarter of the UK barley production, particularly spring barley which accounted for almost 35 per cent of the UK total, according to provisional UK figures. Despite a strong association with the Scottish whisky industry, as a key ingredient, most Scottish barley is used as animal feed.
Spring barley production is estimated to have fallen by 15 per cent in 2016. Over the last 20 years, spring barley production has been following a generally increasing trend. Production reached the highest level over the period in 2013, at 1.71 million tonnes. However, in the last three years spring barley production has fallen, by 49,000 tonnes in 2014, a further 144,000 tonnes in 2015, and another 224,000 tonnes in 2016, to 1.30 million tonnes. This year's estimate is 24 per cent lower than the high of 2013, and is the lowest production since 2002.
The area of spring barley varies considerably depending on the planting of winter crops, but in 2016 the figure of 239,000 hectares was the lowest since 2007. The average yield for spring barley in 2016 has been estimated at 5.4 tonnes per hectare, well down on last year's 5.9 and on the ten-year average of 5.7.
The longer term trend in yield is an increasing one, with the average over the most recent decade seven per cent higher than over the previous 10 years.
Chart 7 - Spring Barley: Area, Yield and Production
Chart 8 - Spring Barley Year-on-Year Change: Area, Yield and Production
2016 production is estimated to have decreased by 19 per cent to 329,000 tonnes. This year's estimated fall has been driven by a 13 per cent fall in yield and a seven per cent reduction in area.
Winter barley yields have fluctuated considerably in recent years, often affected by the weather. However, the recent ten-year average is four per cent higher than that of the previous decade. The average yield for winter barley in 2016 is estimated at 6.8 tonnes per hectare, lower than last year's 7.8 and than the ten-year average of 7.2.
Chart 9 - Winter Barley: Area, Yield and Production
Chart 10 - Winter Barley Year-on-Year Change: Area, Yield and Production