Barley gains attention of beer industry

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, Jan 21 | Updated: Feb 26 2008, 03:54am hrs
The orphan crop, barley, is now gradually gaining the attention of the industry for preparation of beer. SKOL Breweries Ltd of the SAB Miller-India is encouraging farmers in Rajasthan to cultivate the type of malt barley required by the industry.

Barley grown in India has high protein content of 13% to 15% as a coarse cereal it caters to poor mans nutrition needs. But as a neglected crop, the area under barley has been fast decreasing over the years. In the last year, area under barley was only 0.671 million hectare.

The reason being that farmers prefer to cultivate crops which has higher support prices and greater market demand.

Market demand for a crop can be created if alternate uses are put in place. Right now Indian barley has few alternate uses. The high protein content in Indian barley is not suitable for making beer. Ideally the protein content in barley should be in the range of 7% to 10% if it is to be used in the beer industry, said the director of corporate affairs and communication in SAB Miller-India, Sundeep Kumar.

He said that in previous year out of the total production of 1.227 million tonne barley, only 200,000 tonne was used for making beer. We are sourcing seeds from different countries and trying to find out the right ones that can be crossed and backcrossed with the Indian variety, he said.

SAB Miller-India has selected Rajasthan as an ideal place where barley can be grown under suitable climatic conditions for having lower protein content required by the beer industry. It has launched a programme called Saanji Unnati for educating farmers to sow the right type of certified seeds and practices."

"Much depends upon the agronomic practices of farmers in producing the right type barley. We are advising farmers on input uses," said Robert Persyn, general manager of Semper, who is rendering technical expertise for the Saanji Unnati programme. The marketing aspect is taken up by Cargill India.

Rajasthan produces about 431,000 tonne barley (35.% of country's production) over 183,000 hectare area (28.8% of country's barley area). Normal productivity in the state is 2354 kg per hectare.