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New wheat class set to deliver greater choice and value

Wheat Quality Australia has introduced a new milling wheat class for the instant noodle and general-purpose flour markets.
Photo: Alistair Lawson

In August, Wheat Quality Australia (WQA) introduced a new milling wheat class: Australian White Wheat (AWW), suitable for the instant noodle and general-purpose flour markets.

Maintaining the core quality characteristics of Australian hard wheat – white, hard and sound with superior milling extraction and flour colour – AWW is set to deliver greater choice and value for breeders, growers and the trade.

Newly appointed WQA chair Terry Enright says a major use of wheat flour in major Australian export markets such as Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand is instant noodles. Unlike the currently supplied Australian Standard White (ASW) or Australian Premium White (APW) classes, the AWW classification has been designed to specifically meet this market usage, Mr Enright says.

“Most Australian wheat currently supplied to the instant noodle market is either ASW or APW. These wheats are not bred for this purpose, and are largely downgraded Australian Hard or Australian Prime Hard-classed varieties which are bred to have the additional characteristics required for other higher-value markets, such as bread baking and fresh noodles,” he says.

“This means a significant portion of the investment by breeders and farmers to pursue increased quality is wasted and the opportunity for potential yield increase is forgone.”

Recent seasons have seen lower-cost wheat producers, such as the Black Sea region and Argentina, competing more strongly in the South-East Asian market, particularly for share of the instant noodle and general-purpose flour markets.

Mr Enright says the AWW classification requires superior milling extraction, flour colour and starch properties to Black Sea-origin milling grades.

“WQA has been working through changes to the classification system in the more price-sensitive classes (APW and ASW) since 2016, and has been in discussions with the Wheat Classification Council and with wheat breeders, growers and traders to develop an appropriate solution,” he says.

“Based on the benchmarking work available, AWW is around midway between current AH and Black Sea wheats on an ash adjusted milling extraction. Flour colour is likewise halfway between current max yellowness for AH and the known problem variety Krichauff. Testing for dough properties and end products, both baking and noodle, are not in the AWW requirements.

“No protein minimum specification has been set for AWW as a class; however it should not be implied that AWW will only be a low-protein class, as there are markets for AWW at a range of protein from 13 per cent-plus to 10 per cent and below.

“Opportunities to capture improved value in instant noodle and general-purpose flour markets requiring a range of protein can be accessed with AWW.”

Opening the door to new varieties

In addition to supporting Australia’s wheat export markets, AWW is set to deliver some home-grown benefits for breeders, growers and domestic supply chains.

For wheat breeders, the AWW classification provides an opportunity to develop new varieties that meet specific market needs for instant noodle and general-purpose flour markets. As this market is less demanding and requires less quality testing, it allows for a wider range of quality types to meet the requirement, and value creation through increased yield potential, broader environmental adaptation and reduced risk.

As a result of planting wheat varieties that are a better fit for purpose, growers can expect to receive a better return on investment and greater profitability.

“Over time, AWW varieties are expected to have higher yields (up to eight to 10 per cent more) than APH and AH varieties, while still retaining acceptable performance in milling markets.

“As this is achieved through multiple successive breeding cycles, the gains in yield will be steady over three or four release cycles, so it is not expected that the steady state will be reached in less than 15 or more years.

“AWW varieties will also be bred to suit specific climatic conditions, such as high-rainfall areas and the subtropics, enabling growers in these regions to expand their sowing options.”

Increased supply and revenue

The addition of a milling class with scope for improved yield and adaptation to a wider range of environments should also improve the competitiveness of Australian wheat in both domestic and export feed markets.

With the domestic market – spanning stock feed, milling and industrial – being the largest market for Australian wheat, it is expected that the AWW classification will be more suitable for use in the local feed and industrial markets, rather than domestic flour milling, which has a focus on baking quality.

This will enable other wheats (ASW, APW or AH) to be preserved for higher-value export as well as domestic milling markets – resulting in increased supply and revenue in the supply chain.

“While AWW is a hard milling class not explicitly targeted at feed markets, either domestic or export, these markets are already large and forecast to become larger,” Mr Enright says.

AWW is expected to be included in the 2021 Classification Guidelines, with applications being considered from 2022. In following years, AWW will feature in the Wheat Quality Australia Master List and the Wheat Standards. However, it will not be available in commercial volumes for several seasons.

More information: Wheat Quality Australia.

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