Continued poor weather is prompting fears of a shortage of bread-making wheat, a decline in quality because of falling protein levels and rising bread prices, as only half the harvest has been completed in some areas.
Gary Sharkey, head of wheat procurement at Rank Hovis, told British Baker that between 55% and 60% had been harvested by Tuesday (2 September), when normally it would have been completed in all areas by now, except the Borders and Scotland. "Most worrying are the south and south west, where 40-50% remains in the field. These crops were ripe three weeks ago and are starting to spoil. We are seeing the quality deteriorate and the premium on best bread-making wheat jump from £35 to £55 per tonne almost overnight," he added.
Wheat cut earlier in the harvest was being sent into "deficit quality areas", incurring additional and rising fuel costs. Some wheat, which was not fit to be used for breadmaking, would end up as animal feed, forcing millers to make up shortages by importing "more expensive" supplies from abroad, said Sharkey, who chairs the National Association of British and Irish Millers’ (nabim) wheat committee.
Warning that this year’s harvest "may be as bad as 2004", he said the 1% fall in protein levels would mean "higher usage of gluten". He added that flour mills can only take wheat at a moisture level of 15%, but farmers are having to combine when it is around 20%, incurring further drying costs.
Mike Mendelsohn, senior economist at the Home-Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA), said the possible shortage of wheat for milling was "a worry although not yet confirmed".
Growers who had already agreed forward sales may not be able to meet the orders and millers may have to consider higher imports, he added.
=== In Short ===
== HGCA conference ==
The HGCA’s 12th annual Grain Outlook Conference is taking place on Thursday, 16 October at The Congress Centre, London. Titled ’Preparing for Uncertainty’, the event will give a clear picture of the market outlook for 2008/2009, including opportunities and threats in the global market and the management of price risk. For more information visit [http://www.hgca.com].
== Monster Munch back ==
Walkers is to bring back retro-snack Monster Munch. Originally launched in 1977, the snack will be relaunched as a bigger, crunchier version of the former corn snack. A larger pack size will be available and will feature a retro design. It will be available in Roast Beef, Picked Onion and Flamin’ Hot flavours in 40g packs.
== Greenhalgh’s comes to the rescue ==
Customers of craft baker Greenhalgh’s have been helping to raise money for The Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team, by buying hundreds of fruit flapjacks. For every flapjack sold to its Chorley customers, 5p will be given as a donation in support of the bakery’s Local Hero Campaign. Around £700 has been raised so far.
== NCC slams fatty foods promotions ==
The National Consumer Council has accused major supermarkets of dramatically increasing the number of in-store promotions featuring cheap sugary and fatty foods. Its report, ’Cut-price, What Cost?’, claimed Morrisons was the worst "offender" with 63% of its promotions featuring sugary or fatty foods.
A spokeswoman for Morrisons rejected the report, said it was out of date and contained "a number of inaccuracies".