oodles of noodle wheat celebrated

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Kalannie grain grower Bob Nixon.
Camera IconKalannie grain grower Bob Nixon. Credit: Evan Collis Photography

One of the best “long-term success stories” in WA’s grain industry will mark 30 years with a celebration in Perth on Monday.

It has been 30 years since a WA segregation of selected varieties to cater for the Japanese noodle wheat market was established, marking a significant chapter in WA’s grain-growing story.

Japan and South Korea are now Australia’s two biggest noodle wheat customers, taking a collective 1.9 million tonnes worth more than $650-750 million a year.

Until the 1960s, Japan traditionally used domestic wheat for the production with the grain flourishing in the Japanese prefecture Kagawa. Meanwhile, Australians were working on the creating wheat flour for noodles — to much success, with the creation of Australian Standard White.

During the 1960s, Japan imported about 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes of ASW a year, but this quickly doubled by the 1970s.

These days, nearly all of the annual Japanese noodle import is purchased from WA — now preferring ANW and APWN for udon noodle making.

South Korea is also a major and consistent market for noodle wheat, importing 1 million tonnes of Australian noodle wheat — worth $314 million — last year.

To mark the occasion, Australian Grains Export Innovation Centre is hosting an invitation-only cocktail function in Perth on Monday night. WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan will attend the event with WA Governor Kim Beazley.

Kalannie grain grower Bob Nixon grew his first noodle wheat crop “around 1990”, starting with varieties Eradu and Arino, before planting Calingiri for several years.

He has recently started growing Ninja wheat, with about 20 to 30 per cent of his wheat plantings noodle wheat each year.

“Our noodle wheat market’s a great long-term success story for WA growers because it’s consistent and mostly at a price premium,” Mr Nixon said.

“This value is currently being highlighted by Black Sea origin wheat competing strongly into another important market, Indonesia.”

CBH marketing and trading general manager Jason Craig said noodle wheat demand was relatively stable in a competitive global market.

“The provision of the noodle wheat segregation has enabled the WA grain industry to specifically focus on developing varieties suitable for both Japanese noodle manufacturers and their consumers while ensuring these varieties are agronomically beneficial for WA growers,” he said.

“The noodle segregation and the continued development of the noodle market has provided a long-term buyer for WA wheat. In an era where buyers are readily changing origins depending on price, the Japanese industry has certainly shown its commitment to WA, and in turn, WA has committed to producing and continually developing a premium quality product.”

Mr Nixon said the biggest change Australia’s wheat trading landscape had experienced during the past 30 years was deregulation of the wheat industry.

“Supply and demand and associated pricing signals appear more transparent now than before deregulation,” he said.

“The noodle market and relationship with our Japanese customers is now handled differently compared to the AWB days.

“The storage grade APWN has recently been reintroduced to keep Scepter wheat out of the noodle blend because it doesn’t have suitable colour and texture.

“Hopefully we can continue to improve the quality of our noodle wheat and keep what’s become a very important relationship for both country’s long into the future.”

During the past 30 years, WA growers have swapped from growing Australian Soft Wheats (ASFT) to growing Australian Noodle Wheats (ANW).

About 12 per cent of WA’s wheat crop is planted to noodle wheat varieties each year, with about 1-1.5 million tonnes of noodle wheat harvested each year.

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