GIWA examines noodle wheat future

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

WA's noodle wheat industry has been put under the microscope in a bid to secure the industry's future, in a report commissioned by the Grains Industry Association of WA.

Titled WA's Noodle Wheat Industry: Current Status and Future Challenges, the report considers the current and future demand for Australian Noodle Wheat, and the challenges potentially affecting its future.

These challenges include a lack of incentive for quality, higher risks in growing noodle wheat and fluctuating production volumes.

Further challenges cited were that ANW2 was only accepted on a case-by-case basis, that deregulation had not been favourable and the privatisation of wheat breeding.

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GIWA chairman Sean Powell said the report aimed to determine whether market forces should prevail regarding the current state of the WA noodle wheat industry, or whether there were any innovative actions that should be considered to secure the long-term sustainability of the industry.

He said in recent years the price premium for ANW over Australian Premium White had been insufficiently enticing for wheat growers to sow Calingiri, with growers instead opting for the harder, higher yielding variety Mace.

As a result, noodle wheat plantings in WA have declined.

Meanwhile, more variable seasons have caused big swings in yields and production values have varied. This challenged WA's ability to meet global demand for ANW.

Annually, Japan and Korea import about 1.7 million tonnes of a blend of ANW and APW for udon and instant noodle production, making up about 20 per cent of the WA wheat crop.

The ANW component of the blend changes year-to-year, depending on supply, but on average, makes up about half of the Australian Standard White (ASW) blend.

Mr Powell said the industry was at a turning point and the objective of the report, developed by the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre, was to act as a reference document to generate industry discussion among growers, breeders and traders regarding ways to secure the valuable udon and instant noodle trade.

Toodyay farmer Ted Somers, who farms with wife Lyn and son Christopher, has been planting noodle wheat for the past 15 years and considers this an important part of his farming enterprise.

Mr Somers said this year he planted 600ha of Calingiri, alongside about 1300ha of other crops, including mace.

This amount of noodle wheat plantings is consistent with recent years, and he has stayed loyal to the variety despite recent challenges.

Mr Somers said although there was no yield advantage over other leading wheat varieties, calingiri offered important diversification benefits to his enterprise.

Mr Somers said he remained committed to the industry and therefore welcomed GIWA's efforts to ensure its long-term viability.

The GIWA Wheat Council is seeking feedback on the report and the future of the industry from all members of the WA grain sector. The report, an explanatory factsheet and a feedback form is available at giwa.org.au and aegic.org.au. Industry feedback is invited until October 2 via info@giwa.org.au .

Smaller noodle wheat plantings this year in WA are leading to concerns over supply and the return of a premium.

As of Monday the ANW premium over APW1 was $16 a tonne ex-Kwinana, up from a nil premium in July this year.

Profarmer expected this could widen further if there was increased uncertainty that supply this year would meet demand.

According to a recent ACF/Profarmer planting survey there has been a considerable drop in noodle acres this season versus 2014, and the supply of noodle wheat to meet demand is expected to be tight.

Last year an oversupply of noodle wheat saw negative premiums to APW, which prompted many growers to reduce their plantings of noodle varieties in favour of hard wheats.

Profarmer chief analyst Hannah Janson said with very little noodle wheat left over from last year, noodle wheat buyers would be dependent on new season supplies to meet commitments.

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