Push to drive UK wheat exports as drought hits North African cereal crops

By Vince Bamford

- Last updated on GMT

UK industry is hoping to increase wheat exports. Photo: iStock - pgaborphotos
UK industry is hoping to increase wheat exports. Photo: iStock - pgaborphotos

Related tags Wheat

With wheat exports to North Africa tipped to increase this year, UK businesses have been raising awareness of the properties of locally grown flour to overseas bakers.

Delegates from Morocco, Algeria, Belgium, Spain and Portugal recently attended an International Baking Workshop organised by the Cereals & Oilseeds Exports division of levy body the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

The three-day workshop was designed to showcase the quality of milling wheat grown in the UK and gave delegates the opportunity to experiment using UK-grown flour to make their national breads and biscuits.

Held at the Gloucestershire facility of food and drink advisory service Campden BRI, the event enabled visitors to explore the properties of the UKP and UKS wheat export classifications developed by AHDB.

Bread and biscuit making

The UKP classification is for hard wheat used in bread making, while UKS is for soft wheat used for making biscuits (see image below for details).

Delegates could experiment with the flour under scientific baking conditions​,” said Andrew Osmond, a grower from Hampshire and member of the AHDB board.

From a grower’s perspective, it is important farmers understand the characteristics overseas buyers need, and if we can demonstrate the varieties meet their standards then this could potentially open up more opportunities for export​.”

Changing opinions about UK wheat

Jan Luyten, a baker from Belgian bakery ingredients supplier Dossche Mills, said the workshop had changed his opinion of UK wheat.

I had no experience with UKP or UKS and was pleasantly surprised because I had some prejudice about English wheat, but I see they made a lot of effort to make a very fine and good product and I’m very pleased about it​,” he added.

UKP UKS graph

Wheat imports to North African countries such as Morocco and Algeria may increase this year due to the current drought, said AHDB, adding this made it “essential that international buyers can identify the versatility and high standard of wheat produced in the UK.​”

Moroccan economy and finance minister Mohamed Boussaid last week said the country’s cereal production was forecast to be 33.5m quintals (about 3.4 million tonnes) – compared with a record 11m tonne crop last year.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) last month​ said world cereal production would be around 2,521m tonnes in 2016, 0.2% (four million tonnes) lower than in 2015. The decline will be driven by an expected drop in wheat production, primarily as a result of drought reducing plantings in the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Wheat production is also forecast to fall from last year’s highs in Morocco and in the EU following drought, it said.

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