How much wheat do UK flour millers import?
In a typical year, around 15% of the wheat used by UK flour millers is imported - representing around 750,000 tonnes.
Where does the imported wheat come from?
UK millers import German, French, US and Canadian wheat.
Why import wheat?
The average UK harvest is around 15 million tonnes of wheat, so there is enough quantity to meet the UK milling industries tonnage requirement. However, it is not all of the quality required by millers, and as such some wheat is imported.
Canadian wheat is generally imported for bread-making purposes, because it has excellent characteristics and gluten strength which work well in a blend with UK wheats. French wheat is generally used in the manufacture of French style products where softer flours are required.
German wheat usage fluctuates according to the quality of the British crop - if there is not enough high quality British wheat available in one year (owing to weather conditions), more German wheat will be imported. The milling industry invests significantly in the assessment of new wheat varieties. This process has helped to deliver a steady increase in yield potential and quality of UK-grown milling wheat, and its use by UK mills has risen accordingly.
Does the UK import flour?
UK mills can produce enough flour to meet domestic requirements, but some flour is imported (approximately 1% of sales), often for provenance. France (around 15,000 tonnes per year) and Italy (around 20,000 tonnes per year) are the countries of origin accounting for the largest proportion of flour imports.
Does the UK export flour?
Approximately 5% of UK flour is exported. The main destination is the Republic of Ireland (about 180,000 tonnes per year).
The crisis in Ukraine
The dreadful situation in Ukraine has had side effects in many areas, including wheat markets. For more information on how this may impact supply and price in the UK please see the statment issued by Alex Waugh, Director of UK Flour Millers.