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How does Australian wheat stack up against the Black Sea?

Loaves of bread made with Australian wheat (left) and Black Sea wheat (right).
Photo: AEGIC

For several years, Australian wheat exports have been subject to intense competition from the Black Sea and Argentina.

Wheat from these regions is generally less preferred in South-East Asia than Australia’s offering – especially for noodles – but customers are attracted by the lower costs.

It is vital that the Australian wheat industry is armed with the insights needed to continue to respond to this ongoing challenge.

One of the ways the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) is contributing to this response is by analysing the quality of wheat, flour and food products made from competitor wheat and comparing these results against Australian wheat.

This provides much-needed intelligence about the particular strengths of wheat from each origin, as well as potential opportunities for improvement that could enhance Australia’s competitive position.

AEGIC’s ‘Benchmarking Australian wheat quality’ project aims to:

  • benchmark the quality and functionality of Australian wheat against wheats from other origins, primarily Black Sea countries;
  • identify, measure and provide objective targets for quality improvements required in Australian wheat varieties, grades and classes to justify the price premium; and
  • provide customers in key markets with an improved understanding of the value and functionality of Australian wheat.

AEGIC sourced samples of three milling wheat grades from the 2019-20 growing season from Russia, three grades from Ukraine, and another three from Kazakhstan, as well as one sample from Argentina.

Improved understanding of South-East Asian market requirements will allow the Australian industry to respond and align with those requirements.

AEGIC’s laboratories assessed grain physical properties, flour milling performance, flour analysis, dough rheological testing and end-product suitability.

As expected, Australian wheat showed clear advantages for noodle colour and colour stability. Noodle firmness is where quality improvement would be most necessary to further drive the quality gap and justify the price premium to the Black Sea.

Better baking potential

Australian Hard (AH) wheat at higher protein content also showed better baking potential compared with the other samples. However, for some regions quality improvements are required, particularly when compared to particular high-protein Black Sea wheat grades.

The next stage of this project will include evaluation of baking and noodle quality for Season 2 samples. Australian samples for Season 2 will be collected from the 2020-21 growing season. These samples will be compared to the Black Sea samples from the 2020 growing season.

As this project progresses, the improved understanding of South-East Asian market requirements will allow the Australian industry to respond and align with those requirements.

This, in turn, translates to an improved value proposition and, ultimately, Australian wheat becomes more competitive in these markets. With improved competitiveness, the value returned to growers from these markets will be stronger than the scenario where we compete purely on a price basis with low-cost origins, such as the Black Sea and Argentina, or against highly functional North American wheat.

More detailed progress reports on this project are provided directly to Australian industry stakeholders. If you are interested in receiving these reports, please contact Dr Larisa Cato.

More information: Dr Larisa Cato, 08 6168 9908,

AEGIC is an initiative of the Western Australian State Government and GRDC.

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