Noodle wheat bonanza

Claire TyrrellCountryman

The spike in the noodle wheat price has been a welcome bonus for some farmers, while leaving many frustrated with the grain market.

Noodle wheat soared to more than $450 a tonne last month, from $348 in mid October.

This has put it in front of APW varieties, which attract about $330 a tonne.

Geraldton Ten Tigers agribusiness consultant Chris Tonkin said the price rise reflected an undersupply of grain.

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“Last year, growers got less for their noodle wheat than for APW, but now it’s gone to $150 above,” he said.

“Growers have been getting out of noodle wheat for the past couple of years and now there’s not much around. We’ve got buyers clamouring to get hold of it.”

Noodle wheat is only grown in WA and is purchased by Japanese buyers for the Udon noodle market.

Many farmers gave up growing noodle varieties, because an oversupply led to discounted grain.

Mullewa farmer Mark Flannagan was one of the lucky few that planted noodle wheat this year.

He harvested 1000 hectares of the crop this season, which produced 1400 tonnes of grain.

“I sold my noodle wheat last week for $450 a tonne,” he said. “Normally, we get $20 a tonne less than APW, so this is a bonus.”

Mr Flannagan said he grew noodle wheat for agronomic, rather than economic, purposes.

“We grow it on our sandier acidic soil types, because it grows well there,” he said.

“We won’t be filling up the silos with it and putting it as the whole program, because as soon as we do, the price will change.”

Mr Flannagan said he had “mixed signals” from grain marketers, because a few years ago he was advised against growing noodle wheat.

Nearby farmer Daniel Critch stopped growing noodle wheat in 2009, in response to market trends.

“We grew noodle wheat last year, but we got told to get rid of it because it wasn’t worth anything,” he said.

Mr Critch said he wouldn’t change his wheat program in light of this season’s price rise.

Most of WA’s noodle wheat is grown around Geraldton and Kwinana.

Drought conditions across most of the state compounded the undersupply of noodle wheat this year.

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