French wheat exports slashed by low volume, poor quality


Adverse weather that slashed the volume of France’s soft wheat harvest this year also hit its milling qualities, FranceAgriMer said on Wednesday, with average specific weight falling below the estimated minimum level to make flour.

This could prevent the European Union’s traditional top wheat exporter to reach some of its international markets, which use the criteria as a key part of their requirements, it also said.

In its final estimate of the French soft wheat harvest’s quality, the office estimated the specific weight of the 2016 crop at 73 kilograms per hectolitre (kg/hl), down from 79.6 kg/hl in 2015 — one of the highest levels in the past 20 years — and a five year average of 77.9 kg/hl.

Specific weight is a grain density used as a milling criteria, often included in international importers’ requirements. The minimum specific weight to produce flour is 74 kg/hl, French millers say.

“Exports will be the most impacted because specific weight is a major criteria on our main external markets,” Olivia Le Lamer, head of FranceAgriMer’s grains unit, told a news conference.

FranceAgriMer estimated this year’s soft wheat exports outside the European Union would fall to about a third of the volume shipped last season after a 30 percent fall in the output to 28.5 million tonnes, the lowest in 23 years.

It is possible to upgrade the average level of a batch through cleaning and screening but with additional costs. Low specific weight is also likely to force industry players to use more grains to reach a similar quality level.

FranceAgriMer also estimated in its crop quality study, carried out with technical institute Arvalis, that the soft wheat’s average protein content would jump to 12.6 percent, up from a meager 11 percent last year and a five year average of 11.2 percent.

Protein levels tend to rise when yields are low and France harvested one of its worst wheat crops in years after heavy rainfall in late May and early June and low sunshine during crops’ growth.

Despite high levels the wheat’s protein quality was rather poor, leading to low breadmaking properties, FranceAgriMer said.

The national averages confirmed trends seen in harvest samples.

FranceAgriMer’s also said 76 percent of the harvest had average Hagberg falling numbers, another measure of the milling quality of wheat, equal or above 240 seconds, up from a five year average of 73 percent.

Moisture content reached 13.6 percent on average this year, it said.

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