23 June 1995

UK wheat in demand

ITALY will once again be looking to the UK to supply a sizeable chunk of its wheat requirement in the coming season, growers at the Cereals 95 event were told.

But with Hungary already making in-roads and Austria also keen to ship any surplus grain to its new EU partner, quality will be more important than ever.

Currently over half of Italys common wheat demand is met by imports, explained Fabrizio Vitali, secretary of the Italian millers association, ITALMOPA. In 1994/95 this has amounted to 4.75m tonnes, most of it from France and Germany. The UK accounted for 400,000t, with Hungary sending 220,000t.

"The biggest problem we have with UK wheat is that it almost always arrives mixed rather than as pure, single varieties," said Dr Vitali. "This will sometimes ruin its suitability for biscuit-making." French suppliers, in contrast, could send individual lorry loads of separate varieties to meet each millers requirements.

Despite this, there is likely to be good export potential to Italy in 1995/96. Recent storms have caused irreversible damage to some Italian wheat crops and, at best, production is estimated to equal last years 3.9t. Harvest is also up to two weeks late, say the millers.

Hungary is expected to take a bigger share of the market, given its lower production costs. But Austria will be handicapped by the strength of the shilling.

"But whatever happens with these two suppliers, we will still need UK wheat for biscuit-making and, so long as the quality is right, you should have few problems selling to us," said one Italian buyer at the show. &#42