Barley was the first domesticated grain in the Near East and appeared about the same time as wheat. And the statistics still attest to it - among cereal crops barley is ranked fourth in the world for both area and production. It is used as an ingredient in different types of bread and made into malt, an important ingredient in beer and whiskey and an increasingly common end-use product in sub-Saharan Africa. Barley is one of the most important staple food crops in the highlands of Ethiopia. Interestingly, South Africa is the largest producer of beer in Africa, followed by Nigeria and Ethiopia. In the temperate highlands of sub-Saharan Africa, wheat and barley are the main staples, complemented by pulses and to a lesser extent tef and potatoes. Barley beer is one of the main sources of cash in the area.
Reference to numbers/statistics are from FAOSTAT 2010 for the year 2008