Barley is the predominant cereal crop grown in Scotland and, in 2016, contributed about a quarter of the UK barley production, particularly spring barley which accounted for a third of the UK total. Despite a strong association with the Scottish whisky industry, as a key ingredient, about a half of Scottish barley is used as animal feed.
Spring barley production is estimated to have increased by 16 per cent in 2017. 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 next three years spring barley production fell, by 49,000 tonnes in 2014, a further 144,000 tonnes in 2015, and another 255,000 tonnes in 2016, to 1.27 million tonnes. This year's initial estimate, while recovering somewhat, is 12 per cent lower than the high of 2013, due to the smaller area grown.
The area of spring barley varies considerably depending on the planting of winter crops, but in 2017 the provisional figure of 240,000 hectares was the second lowest since 2010. The average yield for spring barley in 2017 has been estimated at 6.19 tonnes per hectare, the highest on record and well above the ten-year average of 5.76.
The longer term trend in yield is an increasing one, with the average over the most recent decade five per cent higher than over the previous 10 years.
Chart 7 - Spring Barley: Area, Yield and
Chart 8 - Spring Barley Year-on-Year Change: Area, Yield
2017 production is estimated to have increased by 13 per cent to 371,000 tonnes. This year's estimated increase has been driven by a 14 per cent increase in yield and slight reduction in area.
Winter barley yields have fluctuated considerably in recent years, often affected by the weather. However, the recent ten-year average is three per cent higher than that of the previous decade. The average yield for winter barley in 2017 is estimated at 7.81 tonnes per hectare, slightly lower than the record highs of 2014 and 2015, but well above the ten-year average of 7.24.
Chart 9 - Winter Barley: Area, Yield and
Chart 10 - Winter Barley Year-on-Year Change: Area, Yield
Email: Neil White Neil White