There is only one wheat harvest each year so most of the wheat crop will be stored either on farm or at specialised central stores. Flour millers have limited storage capacity so rely on a constant supply of wheat to be transported to their mills.
Once wheat has been harvested, it usually requires drying before being stored in cool and dry conditions in clean stores to minimise the risk of damage caused by insects, mites and fungi. These are normally specific to grain stores and different to pests that may attack growing crops.
Safe, effective grain storage is the key to ensuring crop quality and helping prevent loss of premiums through claims and rejections. Good storage practice minimises risk throughout the supply chain and safeguards food safety for consumers.
Store preparation is an essential aspect of ensuring safe storage, whether the grain is to be held for a temporary period or for longer. This is usually done by combining a number of techniques. Good store preparation is used in conjunction with reaching and maintaining the target temperature and moisture content. The aim in most stores is to reduce and maintain moisture levels to 14.5% and temperature to below 15C within two weeks of harvest and to below 5C by the end of December.
The condition and operation of farm stores is audited by assurance schemes such as the Red Tractor Assurance scheme. Merchant stores are audited within the TASCC scheme. Both schemes provide the assurance that is required by grain processors. In this way they can be confident that the grain they mill has been stored correctly and is safe for consumers.
Guidance for farmers and others on the correct storage of grain is contained in the AHDB publication ‘Grain Storage guide for cereals and oilseeds’.
In the UK, most wheat is transported in lorries by road, although some longer journeys are undertaken by sea. In order to maintain standards of food safety, grain handling and transport systems are subject to third party audit and inspection. Each vehicle is also checked for cleanliness prior to loading.
It is important that deliveries to mills are made on time and that the quality of the wheat is protected during transport. Every two years UK Flour Millers undertakes a survey of all loads arriving at member company mills. This information is used to monitor changes in delivery patterns and to identify developments that may require action. Key points from the most recent survey can be downloaded from this page.
Regular meetings are held between UK Flour Millers and the Road Hauliers Association (RHA), the National Farmers Union (NFU) and Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) to ensure that any issues in the transport and delivery system are addressed promptly and collectively.