Where all the barley grows

Ever wondered where the world’s ocean of beer comes from? There’s a guide, of sorts, in the source of barley, beer’s building block. And the figures are staggeringly large – not surprising when we consider that the world’s two biggest beer drinking nations, China and the USA, drink about 64 billion litres between them.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, the world consumed about 143.9 million tonnes of barley in the year to April 2009. The figures don’t differentiated between brewing barley (surely the finest way to consume these precious little grains) and eating barley.

Europe is by far the biggest barley producer (65.5 million tonnes) and consumer (57.5 million tonnes), ahead of the second placed Russian Federation on 23.1 million tonnes and 17.4 million tonnes respectively – making both groups nett exporters.

China, the world’s biggest beer drinker, consumed 4.2 million but produced only 3.3 million tonnes, while the second biggest beer drinker, the USA, produced about 100,000 tonnes more than it produced (production 5.2 million tonnes; consumption 5.2 million)

Australia remained a nett exporter, having consumed 3.9 million tonnes and harvested 7.0 million tonnes.

The Ukraine and Canada are both major producers (12.6 million tonnes and 11.8 million tonnes) and consumers (5.8 million and 9.4 million tonnes) and therefore important exporters.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2009