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Analyst predicts lower quality crop for UK biscuit makers

By Oliver Nieburg , 09-Jul-2010

A four per cent decrease in planting areas for wheat used in biscuit production in the UK has led one analyst to suggest there may be a reduced quality crop available for biscuit manufacturers – but warned it may be too early to tell.

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) cereals and oilseeds analyst Michael Archer’s forecast was based on the 2010 UK Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) Planting and Variety Surveys, published this week.

While the two varieties of wheat used to make bread showed a “mixed picture”, he told BakeryandSnacks.com that a lower wheat area for Group 4 plantings could mean a reduced quality crop for biscuit processors.

Largely in accordance with what the market expected, the HGCA survey suggested the wheat area to be up for next season, supplementing already respectable stocks. Wheat area was seen to rise 10 per cent from 1.803 hectares in 2009 to 1.992 hectares in 2010.

Group One plantings (varieties that produce consistent milling and baking performance for bread) were seen to be up by 10 per cent in the South East, which Archer explained was a key export area.

“It is important to remember total crop size and average quality have an important role to play in the quantity of high quality wheat available for different end markets,” said Archer.

The data on wheat quality will be available from the HGCA cereal quality survey released in the autumn, he said

The current survey also showed the barley area had fallen dramatically by 21 per cent on last year to a total area of 0.901 hectares - the fourth time post war levels have been recorded below 1 hectare.

“While this looks noteworthy” said Archer, “it must be seen in the context of a barley market that is very well supplied.”

End-season UK stocks in 2009/10 are currently seen at 1.4 metric tonnes – the highest level for a decade, he continued. “These extra stocks will help to compensate in part for any fall in production that may result from the lower area.”

The oilseed rape area was seen up 14 per cent in Britain on last year, again along the lines of what the market had expected, said Archer. The crop was believed to have benefited from the oversupply of barley and the fact that disappointing malting demand kept barley prices low, according to another AHDB analyst, Tosin Onikoyi.

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