Japan visit highlights need for WA wheat

Japan cannot get enough of udon noodles produced from wheat grown in WA and that is driving research to develop varieties with better yields to stop local growers targeting other markets.

Japan's First Lady, Akie Abe, highlighted the importance of WA grain growers to her country by instigating a visit to the Australian Export Grain Innovation Centre in South Perth yesterday.

WA is Japan's only overseas supplier of quality wheat for udon noodle production in a relationship built up over decades.

Japan is anxious about its supply as growers drift away from noodle wheat varieties to better-performing hard wheats.

Mrs Abe did not comment yesterday but takes a keen interest in agriculture and food security.

WA exports up to 900,000 tonnes of noodle wheat a year to Japan and a similar volume to South Korea.

An AEGIC-led delegation visited Japan in April to meet millers and processors to discuss a collaborative approach to securing the noodle wheat trade.

AEGIC global grain analyst Peter Elliott said Japan was sensitive on food security issues, particularly in the case of a staple like udon noodles.

"There has been a gradual trend away from noodle wheat production in WA and this gets them nervous," he said.

Noodle wheat breeding has not kept up with advances in hard wheat prompting growers to vote with their seeders.

WA crop breeding company InterGrain is about to release a new noodle wheat variety aimed at winning back growers.

AEGIC wheat specialist Larisa Cato said the new variety had grabbed the attention of visiting Japanese noodle experts.

Japanese flour millers visit the AEGIC noodle testing laboratories regularly to assess WA wheat. Mrs Abe took the same taste test yesterday.

The West Australian

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