On the up: Dry harvest means British wheat quality back on track

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

British wheat weight and quality back to pre-2012 levels, finds AHDB analysis
British wheat weight and quality back to pre-2012 levels, finds AHDB analysis

Related tags: British wheat, Cereal, Wheat, Harvest

The latest wheat harvest in Britain is of good quality which should spell less need for manufacturers to import, a cereals analyst says.

Analysis conducted by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) shows the specific weight of wheat and barley in the UK is up compared to last year.

“Specific weight gives an indication on how much flour you can extract,”​ explained Amandeep Kaur Purewal, senior analyst of cereals and oilseeds in the HGCA (Home Grown Cereals Authority) division of the AHDB.

The weight of British wheat at 77.8kg/hectolitre (hl) was on a par with pre-2012 levels and an improvement from the 2012 season when the crop weighed in at 69.6kg/hl.

“There is more availability of better quality UK wheat. You won’t have to use as much wheat for the same amount of flour.”

Kaur Purewal told that while an improvement on 2012 had always been expected, the return to a steady quality in line with previous years is promising.

“This means there is less need for manufacturers to import from abroad,”​ she said.

Several manufacturers committed to sourcing British wheat were hit by the poor 2012 harvest. Weetabix had to halt production​ on two cereal varieties and Hovis had to drop its British wheat pledge​ and source from the EU. 

Dry season ensures good quality

The AHDB analysis also looked into the Hagberg Falling Number – a measurement that identifies pre-harvest sprout damage.

The provisional 2013 estimate is 334s for this measurement – the highest since 1990 and well above the measure for a ‘good quality’ crop of 250, Kaur Purewal said. She said the dry harvest had prevented any pre-harvest sprouting damage.

Barley was also strong – with specific weight the highest it has been since 1999.

A sure harvest?

The analysis on British wheat remains preliminary, as there are regions in the country that are yet to be harvested.

The wheat analysed has been harvested from the east of England – an area where the greatest harvest progress has been made, Kaur Purewal warned.

“Normally these are the better quality wheat crops – they make up most of the sample at the moment.  I have to stress, the picture will change once more wheat is included in the analysis,”​ she said.

She added that the crop size would also need to be considered because a lower wheat area was planted this year because of the poor conditions in 2012.

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