China wheat growth stagnant, supply shortage concerns remain

More concerns over the quality of China’s current wheat crop emerged this week drawing more attention from the government as Tang Renjiang, the Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, went on another crop tour at the end of last week in China’s northern Hebei province.

Due to the combination of autumn flooding and late planting, this season’s wheat seedlings in the Hebei plains region are the worst in history, the amount of the crop rated good or excellent is relatively low, and the task of improving the crop is formidable, Tang said.

Furthermore, he stressed that farmers and officials should “implement various key measures and maximize the recovery of yield”.

High-quality wheat varieties are also facing challenges with Tang expressed serious concerns about their cultivation.

In particular, Zhongmai 578 a strong gluten wheat that has a protein level of 14.8%-15.1%, is usually used in making high-quality breads, and typically fetches a premium of 200 yuan.

Zhongxin 998, a new seed approved last year with a protein level of 14.1%-14.8% and is also used for bread and steamed buns.

China’s wheat varieties have lagged behind China’s changing diets. Younger generations are eating more western-style breads and bakery products, but planting of high gluten and high protein wheats has not kept pace with that.

Many bakers might have trouble sourcing high-quality wheat because of limited imports under the tariff rate quota system, and much of the production of local wheat is more suitable for traditional products like noodles.

Nonetheless, one positive aspect of the crop is sufficient moisture levels. Since the start of the year, rainfall levels have been 50% higher than normal, and water levels in key reservoirs is up 16% compared to the levels of the previous years.

However, wetter than average conditions might lead to a higher level of wheat diseases and fungi. The impact of this will depend on how well farmers exercise their disease management efforts.