By Olivia Cooper

MILLERS could have to import almost half their milling wheat requirement this year, due to quality problems in the smallest UK wheat crop for 13 years.

The Home-Grown Cereals Authoritys cereal quality survey shows great variation.

It reveals a definite trend towards low Hagbergs and poor specific weights, although protein content is generally higher than last year.

The HGCA says only 53% of Group 1 and 2 wheats reach a reduced breadmaking specification of 200 Hagberg, 12.5% protein and 74kg/hl.

Coupled with a near-30% drop in the total wheat crop, millers could be faced with a challenge, says NABIM director general, Alex Waugh.

“It is likely that imports of quality grain will increase.”

Peter Jones, wheat director of Rank Hovis, says: “The main problem will be maintaining a constant supply – we need farmers to keep selling throughout the season.”

But Grainfarmers milling wheat trader James Ross says: “UK millers are able to use a high variance of wheat quality – even down to 120 Hagberg and 11% protein.

“Although this years crop may not meet all the exact criteria, it is still useable as milling wheat.”