RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA — Saudi Arabia will import 30% less barley in the first six months of 2021-22 compared to the same period a year ago due to a shortage of vessels, according to a report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Imports are expected to total 2.8 million tonnes from July to December 2021. The drop in imports was due to a shortage of vessels that are lined up to load commodities to China or are waiting at Chinese ports to unload cargoes, the USDA said. In addition to affecting imports it has increased the overall price.

Australia is currently the most competitive barley supplier but it is facing an acute shortage of vessels because of prior commitments to shipping wheat and canola. As a result, Australia is lagging behind by about three months in delivering barley to Saudi Arabia.

Total barley imports for 2021-22 are estimated at 5.5 million tonnes, 21% lower than the USDA official estimate of 7 million tonnes. The import estimate takes into consideration the continued shortage of vessels.