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Description | Overview | History | Cultivation pattern | Barley producing countries  | Major trading centers

Barley is an annual cereal grain crop that is consumed as a major food and feed for the animals. Barley is basically a grass crop that comes from the family of Poaceae and is considered to be the fourth most important crop in the world after wheat, maize and rice. It is known for its nut like flavor and chewy consistency due to the presence of gluten content in it. The grass has few leaves, densely spiked and flowered, and gains a height of 60 to 120 centimeters when it gets matured. The crop resembles white berries and is believed to be an excellent crop for the drought like conditions. Other than playing its part as a major food crop, it is also used in beverages and beers. The Latin name for barley is Hordeum Vulgare.


Barley is considered to be the one of the most valuable food crop that survives almost every weather conditions. Although it is a crop that can survive any condition, it is a sensible crop and can get ruined in any stage of its growth. Among other cereal grain crops, barley is ranked fourth after wheat, maize and rice in the context of area covered in the cultivation and the production level. It is the staple food diet of many countries and is largely required for making breads and beer. Animal food and livestock feed is the primary use of barley crop. Malt is another important use of the crop.

As mentioned above, barley stands fourth among other cereal grains in context of production and area covered under cultivation. The world production figure of the crop in 2005 was 138 million metric tons, Russia being the largest producer. Canada and Germany follow Russia in the world production list. The world production has remained quite stable since the 1970s, as there are no big changes in the world production figures. The consumption also remained around the production figure as all of the barley produced is consumed. The European union has the maximum consumption level distantly followed by Russia and Canada. The list of the leading consumers of barley in the world is given below

  • European Union (52500000 metric tons)

  • Russia (15500000 metric tons)

  • Canada (10800000 metric tons)

  • Turkey (7300000 metric tons)

  • Saudi Arabia (6210000 metric tons)

  • China (5450000 metric tons)

  • Ukraine (4900000 metric tons)

  • United States (4758000 metric tons)

  • Iran (3900000 metric tons)

  • Australia (3700 metric tons)

The world trade in barley hovers around a mere 16 million tons as compared to the production figures as most of the cereal is consumed at the place of its production. The major exporters of barley with European Union leading the list with around 5 million tons of export are

  • European Union

  • Australia

  • Turkey

  • Russia

  • Ukraine

  • United States of America

  • Canada

Saudi Arabia is the largest importer of barley in the world. The country dominates the world imports with an import figure of around 6 million tons. The other major importers of barley in the world are

  • Saudi Arabia

  • China

  • Japan

  • Algeria

  • Morocco

  • Libya

  • Tunisia


Barley is a very old crop, cultivated for more than 10000 years now. The crop originated in wild state in the Middle East, and in the lands of Ethiopia. As a wild grass it was used as a feed for animals and as it was domesticated with time, other uses of barley were discovered, the primary use being its use in making alcoholic beverages at that time. As a matter of fact, barley is one of the first domesticated crops in the near east. The earliest known recipe of barley wine comes from Babylonia and it dates back to as early as 2800 BC. Also, the barley water derived from the barley grass is considered to have healing properties and thatís why it was also used in various medicines.

It belonged to the staple diet of the ancient Egyptians who made beer and bread out of it. Greece also adopted barley as a primary cereal grain as it was used in producing bread and was considered to be a high energy giving food. Chinese culture made the crop a symbol of male virility. In this way, it got popularity in whole of the old countries. The European intruders introduced this crop to the new world countries in the 16th and 17th century. The pattern of usage of barley has still not changed much and now also it is used as food, feed and for making alcoholic beverages.

Cultivation pattern

Barley is one of the first ever-domesticated crops in the southwest Asia. It is a temperate as well as a tropical crop and is widely adaptable to various climatic conditions. It is cultivated as a pure crop and also with wheat, gram, lentil, pea, rape, mustard and linseed. It is considered as one of the most drought tolerant and salt tolerant crop. But for effective yields, it needs appropriate irrigation and rich fertile soil. Extremely dry weather or wet weather can damage the crop even if the land is properly ploughed. A slightly dry weather is a bit favorable for the crop at the time of harvesting. The duration, which the crop takes to mature, is about 4 months. The crop is harvested manually either by pulling it out and or by cutting with the help of sickles. The grain is obtained through a process, threshing, by beating it up with sticks and the barley plants are fed to the animals. In India, the sowing period of parley is around October and November that makes it a rabi crop. The harvesting period is around March and April.

Barley producing countries

Barley is being cultivated for more than 10000 years. It is one the most popular crops and it is clear from the fact that it is grown in over 100 countries of the world. The world production of the crop in 2005 was around 138 million metric tons. The largest barley producing country is the Russian Federation that produces around 16.7 million tons of barley produce. The list below shows the ten topmost barley producing countries of the world including Russia with their production pertaining to the year 2005

  • Russia (16.7 million metric tons)
  • Canada (12.1 million metric tons)
  • Germany (11.7 million metric tons)
  • France (10.4 million metric tons)
  • Ukraine (9.3 million metric tons)
  • Turkey (9.0 million metric tons)
  • Australia (6.6 million metric tons)
  • United Kingdom (5.5 million metric tons)
  • United States of America (4.6 million metric tons)
  • Spain (4.4 million metric tons)

In 1974, the world production figure of barley was 148818870 tons and it can be observed that the production trend of the crop had been relatively stable since all these years.

Major trading centers of barley

The major trading centers of barley in the world are

  • Winnipeg Commodity Exchange (Canada)

  • Sofia Commodity Exchange (Bulgaria)


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