Quality and cost fears over wheat harvest

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Baking

Record rainfall in June and July badly hit this year's wheat harvest crop
Record rainfall in June and July badly hit this year's wheat harvest crop
Manufacturers are being warned that the worst wheat harvest for 35 years will drive up prices and could impact on the quality of their products.

ADM Milling said it was experiencing increased interest in its annual harvest assessment, following concerns about the quality and quantity of the crop.

With 90% of the crop completed by the third week in September, low specific weights across all grades of wheat have been the recurrent theme.

Moreover, yield variances have made it difficult to estimate accurately whether UK production is closer to 13 or 14Mt. Last year the UK produced 15.3Mt of wheat.

"The UK crop is seeing great amounts of variability,"​ said Ian Robinson, technical director at ADM Milling UK. "We often see variations in the milling and baking quality of wheat, but this year's harvest has been more difficult to predict than usual, and there are concerns that this will impact on the products that consumers see on shelves."

ADM's harvest assessment is carried out by a team of bakers and wheat scientists at the firm's technical centre in Bristol.

The analysis of the crop helps identify differences in performance compared to previous years, with the culmination of the assessment coming in the form of a 'Big Bake', which sees the flour tested in a genuine manufacturing setting for a range of different products.

With regard to price rises, ADM's trading director Lewis Wright said the delay to the domestic harvest due to the record rainfall throughout June and July, coupled with a severe drought in the US and the Black Sea region of Europe, had given rise to a significant increase in world wheat prices, forcing many millers to implement a price increase.

"Future price direction remains unclear until production figures are finalised, but supply and demand in the UK is looking more finely balanced than in previous seasons,"​ he added.

ADM's assessment of the harvest quality appears to be supported by the latest Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) cereal quality survey.

It found that poor weather and high disease pressure had impacted the quality and quantity of wheat harvested to September 18.

Large variation was seen both within and across regions, with 90% of the UK wheat crop harvested at that point. Average specific weight was considerably lower than in recent seasons, at 70.7kg/hl against a three year average of 77.5.kg/hl.

Crop consultant ADAS believes specific weights could drop to below 70kg/hl when the entire harvest is included.

Alex Waugh, director general of the National Association of British and Irish Millers (Nabim) said the poor harvest came on the back of an "unsustainable"​ 3040% year on year rise in the cost of wheat.

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