UK may have to stick to wheat imports, says commodities analyst

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bread, European union

UK will likely need to continue importing wheat for 2013, says analyst
UK will likely need to continue importing wheat for 2013, says analyst
The UK was hit by an extreme wheat crisis last year forcing industry into import mode and forecasts suggest this trend may stay, says a commodity analyst.

Early forecasts from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) suggest that there will be a significant year on year decline in wheat plantings across the UK, predominantly due to a wet autumn.

“This means that the UK may remain a net importer for the 2013 harvest,”​ said senior AHDB analyst Jack Watts.

However, Watts told that while wheat plantings are set to decline, it is unlikely there will be a repeat on the poor quality of 2012.

“What we need to remember is that 2012 was hugely extreme; it was an unimaginable scenario. There was a big reduction in wheat yields and quality was very poor and variable,”​ he said.

Flour millers worked hard to ensure a reliable product for the bakery industry, he said, while bakers had to battle with high raw material prices and varying quality while remaining competitive.

“Industry has learnt a lot of lessons from 2012. There have been some huge challenges in the supply chain and the situation has really tested the ability of those supply chains to communicate back and forth,”​ Watts said.

“It has highlighted the importance of trust and transparency in the supply chain,”​ he added.

To source or not to source UK?

Asked if UK manufacturers should continue to source local wheat, Watts said it was a “very individual decision”.

“Clearly there’s a lot of value in the provenance but it depends how that risk can be managed in the future,”​ he said.

Last month, cereal maker Weetabix halted production​ on two of its cereal varieties citing poor quality UK wheat as a reason. It did not source elsewhere and said it was committed to using UK wheat, weather permitting.

Back in January, bread maker Hovis made the decision to cut its 100% British wheat pledge​ and started to source from within the EU instead. Its decision to source beyond the UK, it said, was to ensure quality and taste in its products.

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