Bakers face struggle to get good quality bread wheat

By Susan Birks

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wheat, Bread, Uk

The bakery industry faces a shortage of good quality wheat, after the August rain hammered much of the UK's crop.Despite the fact that wheat used for...

The bakery industry faces a shortage of good quality wheat, after the August rain hammered much of the UK's crop.

Despite the fact that wheat used for animal feed is available in abundance at a very low price, good quality breadmaking wheat is in short supply, with prices rising as high as £100/tonne in the north east of England.

The Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) says its wheat crop quality survey, published in September, shows a clear picture of quality deterioration. Many millers are having to import high quality wheat from Canada, Germany or France at a higher cost, as a result.

Bad weather or poor growing conditions can affect the protein levels, weight and colour of wheat, making it unsuitable for bread milling. The quality of bread wheat is measured in terms of alpha amylase activity using the Hagberg test.

Bakery ingredient specialist Bakels says high amylase levels can lead to sticky dough, resulting in bakers having to reduce water addition rates to obtain dough capable of being processed. Low protein levels can reduce dough tolerance and stability and cause further processing difficulties.

The HGCA says amylase levels were higher and protein levels were lower than last year. It estimates only 27% of the varieties of wheat grown for breadmaking would meet key quality criteria compared with 52% last season. Supplies of biscuit grade wheat are also less abundant with only 16% of samples meeting the typical biscuit grade criteria.

Bakels says it has adapted its bread improvers to help bakers compensate for the poor quality wheat. The company has adjusted the enzyme levels to compensate for higher amylase levels in flour. It also says increasing the levels of additives known as data esters can help to improve dough tolerance.

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