Poor UK harvests and a deregulation of Canada’s grain market has meant that Canadian wheat sales to the UK have increased by 50%, but the UK industry says that need not mean a long term trend.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has announced that in the crop year 2012-13 466,800 tons of wheat was sold to the UK. This marked the first crop year since western Canadian grain producers were given the same freedom to market their crops as their counterparts across the country,
Speaking with BakeryandSnacks.com, director general at the flour millers association NABIM, Alex Waugh, said: “What’s been announced is the symptom of one year rather than a long term trend.”
Gradual shift back predicted
“I think there will be a move back to British wheat and I think they’ll do it in a way that doesn’t compromise quality. So they tend not to suddenly change in an enormous amount but in more of a gradual shift."
This year has been a turbulent time for British wheat harvests, with unfavorable weather conditions forcing manufacturers like Hovis to cut their 100% British wheat pledges and source the commodity from elsewhere.
According to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s 2012 Cereal Quality Survey, the UK's 2013 crop had the lowest specific weight since the survey began in 1977. This is important since it affects the amount of flour that can be extracted.
While preliminary analysis last month had suggested that a dry harvest could mean a return to quality for British wheat, the poor conditions of 2012 meant that a smaller area was planted.
Canadian trade opportunities
In a statement, the Canadian AAFC said that the country’s agriculture minister Gerry Ritz had met with Warburtons on a UK trip recently, saying: “Warburtons is a long-standing, valuable customer of Canadian wheat. Canadian producers grow wheat for Warburtons to very exacting quality specifications.”
NABIM’s director Waugh said: “That’s true there is a long term partnership there and a lot of wheat is imported for Warburtons specifically so they account for a good proportion of the total.”
“Warburtons by reputation have always been the most consistent users of Canadian wheat."
Commenting on Canada’s trade ambitions, Minister Ritz said: “By creating and expanding trade and business opportunities in Europe, we are increasing farmers’ profitability and competitiveness while contributing to the economic growth of a country."