Premier Foods CEO calls for more planting of wheat

By Linda Rano

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bread, Hovis, Supply and demand

The chief executive of Premier Foods, Robert Schofield, has called
on the British government to encourage more wheat planting to help
restore the balance between supply and demand as wheat prices
continue to soar.

In an interview with The Financial Times,​ Schofield said that wheat prices were unlikely to fall: "any time soon​", as "demand for wheat was greater than supply​." He advocated that "more land needs to be put under the plough so the supply side is balanced out against the demand​." Schofield went onto warn that "bread prices around the world will go up this year​." In Premier Food's financial report for 2007, published earlier this month, the company said that it had been faced with an "unprecedented challenge​" last year when, during the summer, the price of wheat rose in a matter of weeks to a level approximately double that of 2006. Wheat prices rose to £150m (€196m), while overall cost of sales increased by a massive 163 per cent, the company estimated. The company said that this "dramatic increase​" in the cost of the single largest raw material purchased by the group forced it to review its procedures on how to seek price increases to recover raw material cost inflation more quickly. Premier Foods therefore quickly sought increases in its branded and retailer branded bread at the start of September and end of October. However, the retail prices of major competitors were not raised until early December, which led to a decline in volumes of Hovis, exacerbating the decline of Hovis white bread. According to the Financial Times​, the price of a standard Hovis loaf today is £1.15p, up from 99p a year ago. Premier's financial report identified the inflation being driven by a number of factors including increased global demand for raw materials due to the increasing affluence and growth of economies in the Far East, the increasing use of grains for the production of biofuels and shortages of many agricultural products due to poor harvests in many parts of the globe as a result of extreme weather conditions. The company also said that the UK bread market was highly competitive last year, following a re-launch by Kingsmill in the first half of the year and a national rollout by Warburton's. Premier Foods added that it had identified specific consumer concerns with Hovis white bread and had developed an improved recipe which in consumer testing performed ahead of the competition. Development of the new recipe had demanded investment in ingredients and manufacturing capability. Pro forma trading profit for Premier Food's Bread Bakeries segment decreased by £32.9m to £35.1m.

Related topics: Markets, Premier Foods

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