Australian soft wheat for Asian cookies: a new opportunity for wheat growers

09 November, 2021

Dr Siem Siah – Project Leader

The popularity of baked products, such as cookies and cakes, is growing across South East Asia and China as incomes grow and diets change.

As a result, the soft wheat market is projected to have a growth of 1.1mmt by 2030 with a total demand of 3.6mmt in South East Asia alone. AEGIC analysis identified that the annual growth rate for cakes and biscuits is twice that of noodles in South East Asia.

Recognising this opportunity, AEGIC is working to support a potential new Australian soft wheat industry, in collaboration with growers, breeders and other industry stakeholders.

Demonstrating the performance and value of Australian soft wheat will help position Australia as a preferred supplier of soft wheat to Asian markets and create value for growers.

A new opportunity

In recent years, the Australian soft wheat industry has been largely dormant, aside from some production under contract for Australian food companies.

More recently, flour millers in Asian markets have told us they are interested in sourcing soft wheat from Australia to meet demand and reduce dependency on the US. This is promising news for the Australian wheat industry and an opportunity to take market share from current soft wheat suppliers such as the United States.

Australian breeding companies are responding to this new opportunity by significantly increasing investment into soft wheat breeding programs in Western Australia. AEGIC is supporting these breeding programs by helping to ensure Australian soft wheat meets market requirements.

This technical linkage development will connect Western Australian growers and breeding companies with our markets.

Soft wheat variety trials: promising results

AEGIC has joined a collaboration with the Soft Wheat Growers Association (SWGA), Australian Grain Technologies, InterGrain and LongReach conducting soft wheat trials in Katanning, Western Australia. Initial trials were promising and achieved the targeted low protein levels.

AEGIC tested samples of these wheat trials to assess cookie performance against samples from other origins, based on the cooking test method used by Indonesian flour mills. The Australian soft wheat was generally comparable to competitor soft wheat. These trials will continue following these promising results.

Dr Siem Siah

Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) and milling performance: crucial quality tests

SRC testing has been identified as the most important wheat quality parameter followed by cookie performance for Indonesian mills when purchasing soft wheat. This technical test measures the solvent retention of flour and allows millers to evaluate how well flour will perform when manufacturing cookies.

AEGIC will conduct collaborative SRC trials with two major Indonesian mills to enhance testing methods.

AEGIC is also seeking to understand the milling performance of Australian soft wheat lines as this was a key quality feature raised by Asian flour mills as an attribute requiring improvement.

AEGIC continues to evaluate more Australian soft wheat lines and optimise the test mill to investigate the effect of different milling conditions and bran and pollard  on cookie flour quality.

Low-protein Australian Noodle Wheat could be an alternative to US soft wheat in the short term

Growers in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA suffered through devastating heat and drought in 2021 and production of US Soft White (SW) wheat was badly impacted. This has resulted in extremely limited soft wheat options for Asian flour millers and has driven SW prices through the roof.

Low protein Australian Noodle Wheat provides an excellent short-term solution for Asian mills, with production expected to be significant in the 2021 season following above average rainfall.

At a similar protein level, ANW2 made up of soft-grained wheat is shown to have comparable grain, milling, flour and cookie making properties to SWW. In addition, the SRC water, sodium carbonate and lactic acid of ANW2 are similar to SWW.

AEGIC will be taking this information to customers soon via webinars to stimulate demand for low protein ANW. This is a short-term opportunity.

Working towards a new soft wheat industry

These initiatives will allow the Australian wheat industry to confidently demonstrate the quality and value of Australian soft wheat to Asian customers. This will increase the likelihood they will buy our soft wheat in the future – ultimately benefiting growers.

We will continue to work closely with growers and the Australian wheat industry – as well as key Asian flour millers – with the aim of a reinvigorated Australian soft wheat export industry.

More detailed soft wheat progress reports on this project are provided directly to Australian industry stakeholders. If you are interested in receiving these reports, please contact AEGIC.

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