The Asian cake and biscuit market shows potential for Australia's soft wheat exports.
A reinvigorated Australian soft wheat industry could potentially take a larger slice of Asia's growing cake and biscuit market, according to an investigation by the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC). However, it would require a long-term, coordinated effort by the Australian grains industry.
The amount of wheat grown in Australia specifically for cakes and biscuits has declined over the past decade. It is predominantly used by the domestic market.
The AEGIC investigation found that Australian Soft (ASFT) wheat - and potentially low-protein Australian Noodle Wheat (ANW2) - could be suited to some sweet Asian products, a potentially lucrative market.
A growing market
AEGIC general manager for research and technical services, Dr Ken Quail, says the premium cake and biscuit market across Asia is growing strongly.
"The increasing demand means flour millers are open to using Australian soft wheat, if the quality and price is right," he says.
Dr Quail says the project involved working closely with flour millers in Indonesia and Japan to assess the baking performance of Australian Soft (ASFT) wheat varieties, as well as low-protein Australian Noodle Wheat (ANW2) varieties.
ANW2 may be a short-to-medium-term opportunity, he says.
"ANW2 is semi-soft, low-protein noodle wheat that falls outside the main grade requirements for premium Japanese noodles.
"Our research suggests that ANW2 could be used in some cake or biscuit products in Asia. This would be a new market, potentially reducing risk for noodle wheat growers and expanding demand.
"It is important to note that ANW2 would only be a partial solution as production is relatively limited."
The increasing demand means flour millers are open to using Australian soft wheat, if the quality and price is right.
Long-term export prospects
Dr Quail says building significant soft wheat exports to Asia, and in particular Indonesia, would be a longer-term prospect for Australia.
"This would require a coordinated, long-term effort to breed new soft wheat varieties with not only improved cake and biscuit performance, but also more attractive agronomic qualities for growers," he says.
"Thanks to this research, we now have a clearer understanding of Asian market requirements for soft wheat products.
"This will allow the Australian industry to examine the potential for increasing Australian soft wheat exports."
This research was partially supported by GRDC and involved collaboration with Indonesian and Japanese flour millers and the Australian industry, including InterGrain, LongReach, Stirlings to Coast Farmers, CBH, Premium Grain Handlers, Allied Pinnacle and Tony Guiness.
The relevant varieties
ASFT: Australian Soft (ASFT) is Australia's cake and biscuit wheat class. Wheat varieties in this class are soft-grained, with low protein. Production is generally used domestically for biscuits and cakes.
ANW2: Australian Noodle Wheat (ANW) is grown in Western Australia, principally for the premium Japanese udon noodle market, which has strict quality standards. When the grade requirements of ANW are not met, the grain cascades down into ANW2 at a discount. This can result in quantities of ANW2 being available with limited market outlets. Establishing new markets for ANW2 could reduce the risk to ANW growers and expand demand.
AEGIC is an initiative of GRDC and the Western Australian State Government.
More information: Ken Quail, 02 8025 3200, email@example.com