WHILE Australian wheat is well regarded in many South East Asian (SEA) markets, greater understanding of texture attributes and targets is needed to increase our share of the market, according to Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) general manager – research and technical services, Dr Ken Quail.
SEA is the largest and fastest growing market for Australian wheat, importing 42.9 million tonnes over the past five years, valued at $2.6 billion per annum.
Speaking at the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Update at Wagga Wagga, NSW, Dr Quail said research had shown that raising awareness of SEA market needs, followed by action to better align the Australian industry with those quality requirements, could improve Australia’s competitiveness.
“By identifying those qualities most preferred by key SEA end users we are aiming to enhance the demand and value of Australian wheat,” he said.
“The research aimed to look at a range of fresh noodles and breads, including Malaysia Hokkein noodles, Indonesian fresh noodles (mie basah), Philippines fresh wet noodles, Malaysian loaf bread, Indonesian sweet buns and loaf bread and Philippines Pan de Sal and sandwich bread.
“To do this we worked with wheat technical and purchasing staff across 20 flour milling companies in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines and used an evidence-based approach, which was different to previous research in this area.”
The research has, perhaps unsurprisingly, shown that for wheat purchasers’ decisions are dominated by the price and when buying for fresh noodles and breads the focus is on wheat protein content.
“More interestingly and less well-known was the mill technicians’ preferences for different attributes when making noodle or bread products,” Dr Quail said.
“These included noodle texture (firmness and elasticity) and noodle colour (brightness and colour stability) as most important in fresh noodles and achieving the ideal loaf volume as the most important when selecting wheat for bread.
“Our wheat is highly suitable to noodle making, particularly in noodle colour, but the study shows Australia has less opportunity to supply wheat for bread making, as the quality targets for baking performance in longer fermentation or sponge and dough processes and formulations high in sugar and fat as used in SEA aren’t met by our wheat.
“Compared to Australian wheat, North American wheat with quality suited to such baking systems commands a premium ranging between US$5 and $100/t.”
Dr Quail said the work had shown Australia needed to defend its share of the SEA noodle market, drive improvements in wheat quality for bread making and provide technical support for Australia grain traders and SEA milling companies.
“While many of these recommendations are for post farm gate, Australian wheat growers can ultimately benefit from this study through better targeted wheat breeding and more effective varietal classification to ensure Australian wheat better suits end users in our growth markets.”