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Germany admits wheat quality hiccups but UK upbeat

Germany lifted ideas on the size of the domestic wheat harvest, but cautioned over some loss of quality, as the UK talked up its potential to fill some of the void in milling wheat.

Germany's farm ministry pegged the domestic wheat crop, the European Union's second biggest after that in France, at 27.94m tonnes, a rise of 11.7% from last year's 25.02m-tonne crop, and well above expectations from some other forecasters.

The US Department of Agriculture has pegged the harvest at 25.6m tonnes, and industry group Coceral at 25.38m tonnes.

The ministry's figure includes an estimate for winter wheat of 27.57m tonnes, up 11.9% year on year, and above expectations from the DBV farmers' association of 26.2m tonnes, and of 26.04m tonnes from ADM Germany, formerly Toepfer International.

'High milling premiums'

However, the ministry cautioned over the impact of "frequent" harvest-time rains in many areas which had, in later crops, encouraged sprouting and rendered some crops not worth harvesting.

Indeed, the quality of the crop was "very varied", the ministry said, with a "mixed picture" on bushel weights and an average protein level, placed at 12.0% from initial samples, which was below last year's result of 12.7%.

"Overall, many wheat consignments are able to be used only as a feed grain," the ministry said.

"Accordingly, significant premiums for bread-making wheat are currently being paid."

'Heavily committed on quality sales'

The results would appear to limit Germany's potential for filling the void in quality wheat presented by the damage to crops in many other European countries - notably France, the EU's top producer and exporter - from harvest-time rains.

Provisional UK wheat specifications 2014 and (three-year average)

Specific weight: 78.7 kilogrammes per hectolitre, (78.3kg/hl)

Hagberg falling number: 331 seconds, (303 seconds)

Protein content: 11.7%, (12.3%)

Three-year average excludes 2012, an unusually poor quality harvest

On average protein, the samples from German, renowned as a supplier of hard wheat, are measuring little better than those in the UK, known as a grower primarily of feed supplies, where protein levels look like ending up at an average of 11.7%, according to the HGCA crop bureau.

While down on the 12.2% last year, and below the average of about 12.3%, the UK crop's high score on other measures looks like supporting its popularity with importers.

'Competitive edge'

"Although the lower protein content is not ideal, it can be potentially corrected, at a cost, by adding gluten or blending with imported wheat to meet domestic requirements," the HGCA said.

"It is much more difficult to compensate for low Hagbergs," a measure of spourting.

"Furthermore, British wheat may still meet export customer requirements, despite the lower protein content."

Amandeep Kaur Purewal, HGCA senior analyst, said: "A good quality wheat crop could provide Great Britain with a competitive edge, after an absence of two seasons from the export market," after the dismally wet 2012 meant a poor-quality harvest that year and a small one in 2013.

At Gleadell, the UK grain merchant, David Sheppard added that German merchants "are already heavily committed on quality sales to the Middle East", limiting their ability to meet demand switched from the likes of Frrance, where wheat quality has proven particularly poor.

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