UK millers have reassured the public that stricter Covid lockdown measures – and the return of the Great British Bake-Off – will not result in shortages of flour this autumn.
The message comes following reports of renewed panic-buying following the government’s latest announcement on increased restrictions, as well as the prospect of price increases due to a disappointing wheat harvest this year.
Urging shoppers to resist the temptation to panic buy, the National Association of British and Irish Millers (nabim) says that mills have been running 24-hour production operations since lockdown was first imposed in March and that flour supplies are not under threat.
“We would like to reassure customers that there is no shortage of flour in the UK. We know that people enjoy baking during the Bake-Off season and lockdown, and UK flour mills and packing lines are increasing output to meet this added demand,” says Nabim Director General Alex Waugh.
“Panic buying causes snags and disruption in the supply chain, so we urge consumers to help out by buying flour only as they need it.”
Earlier this year shortages of household flour in shops and supermarkets was attributed to the demand for 1.5kg bags, rather than a lack of flour, as the public embraced home-baking.
POOR OUTLOOK FOR THE 2020 WHEAT CROP
Yield and planting data indicate a UK wheat crop of between 9.7 to 10.2Mt, down at least 6Mt (-37%) on 2019 – potentially the smallest crop since 1982. Initial quality data indicate a low protein domestic milling wheat crop, with potentially only 0.9Mt of breadmaking wheat meeting full quality specification, 51% lower than in 2019, Nabim reports.
Poor quality and a domestic crop that looks to be the smallest since 1982 will significantly restrict the availability of domestic milling wheat in the 2020-21 season in UK.
The crop size coupled with uncertainty around the availability of European imports and weak sterling has lent significant support to UK wheat prices, now standing 35% higher than the same point in 2019.
British flour mills have been making large purchases of German wheat in August after a collapse in the United Kingdom’s harvest this year, Reuters reported.
“British mills have been making pretty big purchases of German high-quality wheat in past weeks,” one German trader told Reuters.
“I think about 200,000 to 300,000 tonnes have been bought from the new crop in Germany for shipment to the UK in the rest of 2020.”
British millers have being buying mainly German and Canadian wheat as they offer the high protein levels needed to blend with lower-protein British wheat.
Britain imported 1.05 million tonnes of wheat in the 2019/20 season, which runs from July to June, including 155,037 tonnes from Germany.
This year the total is expected to be much higher. Canada was the main supplier last season, providing 441,527 tonnes.