I was going to try to see what percentage of the malt used in Britain was made from foreign barley. Then I remembered something rather important: barley wasn't just used for making beer. A fair amount of the barley available in Britain was used for animal feed. Working out how much imported barley was used in malting is impossible using the figures I have.
What got me thinking about barley was a quote from the Journal of the Institute of Brewing that I published a few days ago. Written in 1917, it pointed out how the price for barley in Scotland was 20 shillings a quarter higher than the highest price of the previous 100 years.
This is that information in table form, with years of peak prices from the 19th century along with 1916-1917:
|The price of barley in Scotland|
|year||price per quarter|
|Feb. 1917||74s. to 76s.|
|Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 23, Issue 3, May-June 1917, pages 180-181.|
The table below covers rather more years, straddling WW I. It shows that UK barley production peaked in 1890 at over 36 million cwts., declining to around 30 million cwts. on the eve of WW I. During the war, production dropped to under 25 million cwts. It doesn't take a genius to work out that this fall in UK production, coupled with a big drop in imports would cause a shortage of barley. You can see that in 1914 barley imports were about 50% lower than in 1910.
If you're wondering why I've two different sets of figures for 1915, it's because they come from different sources. The rows with price columns are taken from the Brewers' Almanack, those without from the Journal of the Institute of Brewing. I've no idea why the numbers are so different from the two sources.
By 1920 domestic barley production was back up to its pre-war level of around 30 million cwts., the rise presumably due to the increase in acreage dedicated to barley. Later in the 1920's output fell to just over 20 million cwts.
The 89 shilling per quarter barley cost in 1920 shows how the price continued to rise through the war. The price fell back again later in the 1920's to 30-40 shillings per quarter, but that was higher than the immediate pre-war price of under 25 shillings.
Barley imports were a bit up and down in the 1920's, but I know from other figures that they stabilised at around 20 million cwts. in the 1930's.
These fluctuations in price and quantity available must have made life very difficult for maltsters and brewers during WW I and just after.
|UK barley acreage, produce, price and imports 1857 - 1927|
|Year ended Dec. 31.||Acreage.||Estimated Product Quarters (400 lbs.).||Estimated Product cwts.||Average Price per Quarter.||Average Price per cwt.||Barley. Imports.|
|s. d.||s. d.||Cwts.|
|1857||--||--||42 1||11 9||6,076,679|
|1860||--||--||36 7||10 3||7,545,932|
|1870||2,371,739||--||34 7||9 8||7,217,369|
|1880||2,695,000||5,408,376||19,315,629||33 1||9 3||11,705,290|
|1890||2,300,994||10,099,190||36,068,536||28 8||8 0||16,677,988|
|1900||2,172,129||8,568,286||30,601,021||24 11||7 0||17,189,358|
|1910||1,899,130||7,880,562||28,144,864||23 3||6 6||18,281,500|
|1915||1,624,816||5,862,244||20,936,586||37 2||10 5||12,291,685|
|1920||2,049,306||8,212,000||29,328,571||89 3||25 0||12,667,700|
|1922||1,691,007||6,664,350||23,801,250||39 11||11 2||12,703,275|
|1923a||1,485,604||6,154,400||21,980,000||33 8||9 5||18,129,280|
|1924a||1,465,660||6,400,800||22,860,000||46 9||13 1||21,656,359|
|1925a||1,470,731||6,456,800||23,060,000||42 0||11 9||15,779,162|
|1926a||1,269,959||5,740,000||20,500,000||36 11||10 4||11,550,617|
|1927a||1,166,295||5,353,600||19,120,000||42 0||11 9||16,502,710|
|a Great Britain only.|
|Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 23, Issue 3, May-June 1917, page 182.|
|1928 Brewers' Almanack, page 119.|