Opportunity knocks in Asia

While Australia should prepare for oodles of noodles as growth in Asian noodle consumption rises, it should also explore targeting other market segments and be wary of increased competition. According to "What the World Wants from Australian Wheat Growers", produced by the Grain Growers Association and Food South Australia, Australian wheat is favoured for Asian noodle production, presenting significant opportunities.

However, Asia"s dominant use of sponge-and-dough breadmaking techniques and the potential for new North American hard white wheats to target traditional Australian markets could be an obstacle to Australian aspirations.

One of the report"s authors, Ms Rosemary Richards, from Bowman Richards & Associates, says that the industry needs to be aware of market changes. "In the past, we may not have been positioned to take advantage of all emerging opportunities," she says. "We should be trying to gain access to other market segments in Asia, like the pan bread market."

While the Asian pan bread market represents a tremendous growth area, the popularity of the sponge-and-dough breadmaking process - actively promoted by the North American wheat industry - has allowed competitors to establish a strong position in this segment.

Ms Richards says that as Australian wheat is not suited to this process, the industry needs to rethink its options. "We either need to produce varieties that suit this process or persuade customers to change their production process."

Australia could create a breadmaking process that suits Australian wheat and also produces Asian-style bread. "Our process is a lot faster, generating economic benefits for the customer, so we could use that to promote its take-up."

In the short term, Australia may have varieties that could be used in the sponge and dough baking process, but it needs to segregate these, market them to Asian buyers and deliberately focus improvement of these varieties in our breeding programs.

Ms Richards adds that by understanding the range of markets and their characteristics, and aligning breeding, agronomic and marketing strategies with market needs, the Australian wheat industry can find new opportunities and succeed. But it needs to ensure it maintains the core qualities of Australian wheat.

For more information: Damian Capp, Grain Growers Association, (02) 9886 2207, http://web1.graingrowers.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=50&Itemid=177