An improved harvest means bakers will be using more home-grown wheat this year. With most of the bread wheat now harvested, there is industry-wide relief that crops have survived well despite the patchy summer weather.
Total yield estimates range from 14.2m-15m tonnes, while protein levels are higher than those in last year’s bumper harvest, when diluted protein caused problems for millers.
UK flour milling trade body Nabim labelled it "an average harvest". Said director general Alex Waugh: "There will be a certain amount of variation but there’s a reasonable amount of wheat to choose from."
ADM Milling reported that early indications pointed to good, albeit variable quality, moving across the country. Trading director Lewis Wright said: "In terms of blending it is expected that there will be a greater use of UK-grown wheat and we will work with our customers’ requirements to manage price and offer best value."
Warburtons’ executive director Brett Warburton said the signs were good for the UK: "It’s too early too say what the impact will be on our bakeries but the early signs are positive from a quality perspective. In Canada, the late harvest leaves the crop exposed to possible frost damage, but it’s too early to call."
Rank Hovis would be importing less from Germany, said head of wheat procurement, Gary Sharkey, who admitted a sense of relief after last year. He added that while the wheat price had gone up by £5 a tonne to £128 in the last few days (after the market reacted to a perceived lack of yield following Defra’s revised final projection, down half a million tonnes to 14.2m tonnes) prices had dropped since the middle of May.
Like many bakers, NAMB member Anthony Kindred of Kindred Bakery, who has one shop, hoped prices would still ease slightly, but added: "The worry for a baker is when there’s a shortage because of a bad crop you panic a bit if you can’t get good enough flour, but it sounds as though it will be okay this year."