13 September 2001
HGCA: quality low but no premium

By Tom Allen-Stevens

THE quality of UK wheat has taken a tumble this year, the Home Grown Cereals Authority confirmed on Thursday (13 September).

But the hoped-for high bread premium may not materialise because the European market is flooded with cheap, good-quality wheat.

Hagberg falling numbers have fallen significantly and are well below the three-year average for all wheat groups, according to the third HGCA quality update.

Of the 3800 samples of wheat cut before the end of August, Malacca, Paragon and Chablis are the only varieties that have average values of 300 or above.

Wheat and barley quality continues to be highly variable across the UK, reports HGCAs Rupert Somerscales, with some areas harder hit than others.

“Parts of North Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire have suffered the most from the bad patch of weather, causing problems of sprouting and plummeting Hagbergs.”

The findings of the survey confirm fears that were first reported a month ago on the FWi/FARMERS WEEKLY Harvest Highlights service.

Claire was the first variety to be hit by poor weather at the start of harvest, with worries for other Group one milling varieties following.

But, contrary to pre-harvest reports, Mr Somerscales points out that poor quality may have less effect on the price for bread milling wheats than usual.

“With increasing quantities of milling wheat being imported from the Continent, a price ceiling has already been set.”

Growers may only be able to attain high prices for high quality group 2 and 3 wheats at a regional level as these are less likely to be imported, he adds.

Contrary to much of the feedback on the Harvest Highlights service, barley quality appears to be holding up.

Reports of split grains and pre-germinations have increased as the spring barley harvest progressed, reflecting the poorer quality crops drilled later in the year.

But results from 3991 samples of barley cut before 10 September show that overall quality continues to be better than last year.

Nitrogen content appears to be the only exception, which is generally higher in spring varieties, but screening levels continue to be low.

Specific weights for spring barley have fallen in recent weeks, but are still well within the average, Mr Somerscales reports.

Although the HGCA quality surveys are now based on a larger number of samples than ever, he cautions that they do not completely reflect the diverse mixture of varieties grown.

“A complete picture will only really be known once all the results have been compiled at the end of October.”

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