28 May 1999

Continental millers give thumbs up to UK wheat

By Andrew Swallow

MORE export demand for UK Group 1 and 2 wheat varieties seems likely this harvest, but traders must understand the needs of Continental buyers better, say the buyers themselves.

"When you are ready to understand our baking process, then we are ready to import," says Artur Melo e Castro of Portuguese miller Germen, one of 10 Continental buyers gathered in the UK by British Cereal Exports last week.

Last season he imported Riband and Consort biscuit wheats, and a Consort/Charger cargo for blending. Now breadwheats Malacca and Shamrock are on his shopping list.

"Malacca could do all the flours that we produce in Portugal – the French or Germans have no varieties similar. And Shamrock has the value of a very low Chopin Alveograph. That allows us to blend it to produce special flours." Rialto might be used for blending, but a grey colour to the flour would require addition of an enzyme, adding to cost, he says.

Roberto Ghidini of Italian miller Progeo liked Shamrock and Malacca. But he added that he might have a use for Charger, too. "Our experience of British wheat has been limited to biscuit wheats, so we are very happy to know there is a wider range. I think in future we could try to use some of these other varieties."

Moroccan, Tunisian and Spanish buyers also took part in the four-day visit. Laboratory milling and baking tests conducted at Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association gave them the chance to compare UK varieties Malacca, Shamrock, Charger, Rialto, Cockpit, Genghis and Claire with French and German benchmark samples. They also heard presentations on the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme.

While only a snapshot of last years harvest, the test results gave customers a feel for what was on offer in the UK, says HGCAs market development executive, Simon McWilliam.

"A negative, but an important negative, is that they have learnt it is necessary to exclude Group 4 wheats from cargoes." &#42