Western Australia and Japan are celebrating the 30-year anniversary of the udon noodle wheat segregation. This video celebrates the people who made this unique industry possible.
During the late 1970s and 1980s, Japan realised that wheat from Western Australia was excellent for traditional Japanese udon noodles, which have unique and strict quality requirements. This was due to a wheat variety called “Gamenya”.
Gamenya became popular with Western Australian growers in the mid-1960s following a devastating epidemic of stem rust. Gamenya had the best rust resistance at the time and was well-suited to WA.
Gamenya was a leading variety for 20 years until the mid-1980s, when growers began planting higher-yielding varieties. Gamenya production dropped drastically.
By this time, Japan had come to rely on Western Australian shipments of the wheat class “Australian Standard White” (ASW) to make udon noodles.
The reduced amount of Gamenya in ASW exports from Western Australia meant lower quality noodles in Japan.
At the same time, a new variety “Eradu” was released with similar qualities to Gamenya.
In March 1989, at a wheat industry seminar, Dr Graham Crosbie, a cereal chemist with the WA Department of Agriculture, publicly called for a brand-new noodle wheat segregation to be immediately established.
This would go down in history as the spark which led to the noodle wheat segregation.
The new segregation would concentrate the dwindling supplies of the key noodle wheat varieties to ensure shipments to Japan contained the right types of wheat for udon.
Importantly, the segregation would return guaranteed price premiums to growers to support their profitability and encourage the production of noodle wheat.
While controversial at the time, this ultimately proved to be highly successful. Noodle wheat production increased, value was increased for growers, and Japan had their udon noodles.
The ongoing success of this special relationship between WA and Japan is down to the fact that it is mutually beneficial and each partner is prepared to invest resources to ensure its success.
Western Australia continues to invest in new, improved noodle wheat varieties. Japan regularly sends visiting experts to help assess unreleased varieties.
On behalf of the WA noodle wheat industry, AEGIC (Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre), CBH and GIWA (Grain Industry Association of WA) leads the relationship with Japan and provides technical support, crop reports and resources to address any seasonal issues that arise.