New wheat class set to deliver greater choice and value

New wheat class set to deliver greater choice and value
August 23, 2021 Fuller

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 alike.

In fact, Dr Steve Jeferies and Tress Walmsley have estimated that by 2031, the cumulative impact of the AWW class on yield and area will be 1.86MT additional crop size and $510 million increased value per season. 

Mr Terry Enright, newly appointed Chair of Wheat Quality Australia, provides an update on the range of benefits this promising new class of wheat is set to deliver. 

Meeting the needs of our largest export market

Over the last 10 seasons, the largest export customer for Australian wheat has been Indonesia, followed by other Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, The Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. 

A major use of wheat flour in these markets is instant noodles. Unlike the currently supplied ASW or APW classes, the AWW classification has been designed to specifically meet this market usage, explains Mr Enright. 

“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 AH or APH classed varieties which are bred to have the additional characteristics required for other higher value markets such as bread baking and fresh noodles. 

“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 foregone,” he said. 

In addition to meeting the needs of Australia’s largest export market, AWW also forms part of WQA’s strategy to protect our current markets.  

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

According to Mr Enright, the AWW classification shows 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 said. 

“Based on the benchmarking work available, AWW is around mid-way 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+% to 10% 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, too. 

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.

“Because the traits included in the AWW requirements are less influenced by environmental

variations compared to some others, there is an opportunity to reduce the number of seasons of data required to achieve classification, faster cycle time and shorter time to market is also value generating,” said Mr Enright. 

A better return on investment

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 sub tropics, enabling growers in these regions to expand their sowing options,” said Mr Enright.  

Increased supply and revenue in the domestic supply chain

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

With the domestic market, spanning stock feed, milling and industrial, being the largest market for Australian wheat, it is expected that the new 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,” said Mr Enright. 

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, will not be available in commercial volumes for several seasons.

Please visit here for Australian White Wheat (AWW): Frequently Asked Questions.