The British wheat crop, on one of its main quality specifications,
rate at its worst in at least 36 years, as the wettest summer in a century hurt
crop development and slowed harvest.
The HGCA crop bureau, cautioning that "poor weather and
disease pressure have impacted the quality of wheat", warned that "specifics
weights are emerging as the main issue".
Specific weight, the weight of grain in a given volume, is
one of the main quality tests, with thin and shrivelled grains seen as offering
weak potential for flour, besides depleted feed value.
The bureau estimated the specific weight so far into harvest
at 71.9 kilogrammes per hectolitres, down from 77.5kg per hectolitre last year.
A result at this level would also be the lowest on records
going back to 1977.
And in being based on results from early-harvesting southern
districts, which grow largely milling wheat, the figure might potentially
decline further as it reaches feed-wheat-growing regions further north and
west, where harvest delays have been more severe.
what is usable'
"The figures are from the harvest to August 29, so cannot
reflect some of the difficulties currently being experienced in certain areas
of the country," the HGCA said, adding that some wheat had tested as low as 54kg
With millers typically requesting wheat testing at 76kg per
hectolitre or more, the poor quality of the harvest has prompted some to drop
their specifications to ensure supplies, as Agrimoney.com revealed on Thursday,
besides raising imports from countries such as Denmark, France and Germany.
"With the UK harvest far from over, specific weight seems to
be the main quality issue, leaving most domestic users reviewing their intake
criteria, "Jonathan Lane, trading manager at merchant Gleadell said.
A rival merchant said that "millers, and to a certain
extent, the feed consumers, are still experimenting with what is usable and
what is not".
Openfield, the UK co-operative, said that "there has been
some discussion in the milling and baking community about the 'functionality'
of the new crop samples, but it remains early days.
"UK millers have proved very adept in the past at using
whatever local supplies are available."
Milling wheat premiums, while rising to some £30 a tonne,
are now "capped by the availability of other northern European origins where
quality does not appear to be an issue".