AUSTRALIAN wheat could potentially take a bigger slice of the Asian cake and biscuit market in the coming years.
A new AEGIC project is investigating opportunities to grow the use of low-protein Australian wheat for sweet products in key Asian markets. If successful, this would establish a new market for Australian wheat.
AEGIC grains research scientist Dr Siem Siah said the project could potentially support the future supply of soft wheat from Australia, and increase the value of low-protein wheat classes such as ANW2 (Australian Noodle Wheat) and low-protein ASW (Australian Standard White).
“Australia’s noodle wheat class is a semi-soft wheat and at low protein is likely to share quality characteristics with wheat used for cake and biscuits,” Dr Siah said.
“Finding a new market for low-protein ANW would reduce the risk for growers to produce noodle wheat and potentially expand the demand. Similarly, exploring targeted options for low-protein ASW may establish a higher value for this wheat.
“In both cases (ANW2 and ASW) this is a matter of making better use of wheat that we already produce. These grades also provide an immediate supply option which may be suitable for components of this market.”
Dr Siah said in addition to the possibility of establishing new markets for ANW2 and ASW, the project could conceivably reinvigorate Australia’s soft wheat industry.
“Expected demand across Asia could potentially support specific soft wheat production in Australia, however this would need the support of the entire Australian grains industry – including breeding companies – as farmers would need soft wheat varieties that compete effectively with other crop options,” she said.
Dr Siah said North American wheat was currently dominant in the Asian cake and biscuit sector but may not be able to meet the expected growth in demand in the coming years.
“Asia is looking for alternative supply options for soft wheat, and Australia offers many benefits including proximity to Asia, hence lower transportation cost, and combined cargo efficiencies,” Dr Siah said.
“The US Wheat Associates weekly price report indicates that the average price difference from October 2014 to January 2017 of Soft White wheat at 9.5 per cent protein content attracts a US$34 price premium compared to 10.5pc protein. This highlights that lower protein soft wheat attracts better pricing for its functional quality.”
Dr Siah said AEGIC had already started engaging with Asian flour millers to identify their wheat quality requirements for cake and biscuit applications in Asia.
“Initial trials have been completed in Japan and Indonesia. The Japanese place a strong emphasis on sponge cake production as they consider this to be a market that has highly demanding quality requirements,” she said.
“For Indonesia, the main target is for cookies and biscuits as these products represent a significant market share. While these two markets are the focus of this early stage of work it is likely that the project will be broadened to encompass a wider opportunity across Asia.
“The project will involve further evaluation of grain samples and a supply and demand analysis. We will work closely with the Australian grains industry and project findings will made available in due course to inform decision making across the supply chain.”