Egypt opens door to UK wheat

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wheat, United kingdom, International trade, European union, Uk

New opportunities have emerged for British wheat growers after an
industry association used a new classification system to
successfully negotiate the export of UK wheat to Egypt, the world's
second largest buyer, reports Chris Mercer.

The Egyption state buying department has put UK milling wheat for bread and biscuits on its official list of potential suppliers for the first time thanks to talks led by Britain's Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA).

The move offers growers in the UK the chance to profit from the lucrative Egyptian market where wheat consumption is estimated at 12.8 million tons and sustained by between six and seven million tons of imports.

Egypt already imports the majority of its wheat from the US, France and Australia, providing tough competition for UK firms. Yet Andrew Flux, HGCA crop marketing director, said "there is a good opportunity for UK wheat to break into this important market as the Egyptians are very keen to find another suitable supplier that would give them a wider choice in the market place.

"It has taken over two years of extensive, behind the scenes work to get to this point,"​ said Flux, who has been involved in crucial negotiations with the Egyptian government - responsible for 70 per cent of the country's wheat imports, partly to aid its scheme of subsidising bread for poorer Egyptian consumers.

The space for exports on the Egyptian market has actually begun to look increasingly uncertain since the start of 2005 when supply minister Hassan Khedr told parliament that the government was determined to halve wheat imports over the next few years as part of a self-sufficiency drive.

But, British millers at least may have reason to be optimistic about their access to the market after Khedr personally requested a seminar between the UK and Egyptian wheat industries last September.

The fact that Britain currently grows no genetically modified wheat varieties may also give firms an extra bargaining tool. The Egyptian government has received criticism over the last few years for importing GM wheat from America against consumers' wishes.

The breakthrough is the first major advantage the UK wheat industry has seen from a new, simplified classification system designed to help it compete directly with other global wheat suppliers.

The system, recently unveiled in Paris, categorises British wheat into two main brands: Ukp - a blend of semi-hard varieties to suit both EU and non-EU bread making, and UKs - a blend of soft varieties, well known throughout the EU for their biscuit making and bread blending characteristics, especially when blending with hard high protein wheats.

Emma Jackson, of HGCA British Cereal Exports, said: "Potential and existing customers of UK wheat have requested a simple system that they can trust to give them confidence that what they are buying will meet their expectations. The customer will now have a system for easily understanding the technical properties of the wheat they are buying."

Flux added that the Egypt deal was one piece of a"long-term project to open up North African markets for UK grain"​.

Further discussions between the British and Egyptian industries will also be taking place at bread baking workshops in Gloucestershire and Cairo in March and April respectively.

Related topics: Ingredients

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