SOUTH East Asia is the largest regional market for Australian wheat exports.
Of Australia’s top 12 export markets, five are in SE Asia – Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.
Indonesia, alone, imports more than four million tonnes a year.
But in the past couple of years, intense competition in those markets from a number of players – the Black Sea, Argentina, Brazil and India – and increasing competition from countries such as Canada and the United States with good functional grain, has highlighted Australia needs to think beyond price and logistics to retain or even grow its market share.
A recent GRDC-funded study by the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre looked into further opportunities for SA wheat products in SE Asia.
AEGIC wheat quality technical markets manager Larisa Cato and AEGIC SE Asia program leader Roslyn Jettner were part of a team that spoke to Indonesian buyers and processors about the qualities and functions they preferred in wheat, particularly for use in fresh noodles and loaf bread production.
They recently outlined the findings at the Waite campus.
“Australian wheat makes really good noodles, but it is less preferred when making premium quality SE Asian breads,” Ms Jettner said.
“We believe there is opportunity to explore Australian wheat for biscuits, crackers and cakes in SE Asia, but we may need to think outside the square of today’s Australian wheat classes.”
Dr Cato said for noodle wheat buyers, the top five ranked attributes were price, protein content, noodle texture firmness, wet gluten content and milling yield.
While for millers the top attributes were mainly quality based – colour stability, texture elasticity, texture firmness and noodle colour.
“Australian wheat has all these attributes, making it well-suited to Asian noodle production,” she said.
Fresh noodle makers preferred wheat with under 300 secs in falling numbers, 10.5 per cent wheat moisture, under 2pc screenings, 11-13pc wheat protein and 29-33pc wet gluten content.
Dr Cato said Australian wheat was less preferred in Indonesia’s industrial premium bread segment, with the US and Canadian grades of wheat more dominant because of their perceived advantages in processing.
“APH was ranked third after DNS (US) and CWRS (Canada),” she said.
“Bread flour attracts a higher premium than noodle flour because of its qualities, so there is an opportunity for increased value for growers from accessing this market segment.
“But the Australian industry will need a strategic and co-ordinated approach to compete in this market segment.”
Dr Cato said for bread wheat buyers, the top five attributes were price, protein content, loaf volume, wet gluten content and milling yield – similar to noodle wheat buyers – while the technicians rated loaf volume, water absorption and wet gluten content as most important.
Bread makers preferred wheat with between 330-400 secs in falling numbers, under 11pc wheat moisture, under 2pc screenings and 13-15pc wheat protein.
“Higher levels of wheat protein and wet gluten are preferred in baking,” Dr Cato said.
“But in all the quality traits we have studied and analysed, and the willingness to pay, with both type of products, buyers and millers are always going to choose a parcel that is going to produce high loaf volume.”
Dr Cato said if the Australian wheat industry was going to retain and grow its value-share of the market, it needed to focus on the wheat quality attributes SE Asia customers prefer and understand the value they are willing to put behind those attributes.
“We can’t take our market share for granted,” she said.
“Industry needs to build the value proposition behind these characteristics, through breeding, classification, production and accumulation.
“While it is important growers extract more value from higher yields and lower farm inputs, it is also important to increase the value per tonne for wheat produced.
“Australia needs to differentiate the functionality of our wheat to avoid competing on price and logistics alone, because we will not be able to compete with the Black Sea or South America on price.”