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HARVEST STORY


So it’s that crazy time of year again….no not when schools across Europe break up for the summer, but when the European wheat harvest begins, and farmers, merchants, feeders and millers all wonder what the actual yields and quality will be after many months of guessing and calculating.


Whilst some may comment that anyone involved in the grain and oilseeds industry faces similar issues every year, at give or take the same time of year, no one year is the same. There is always some new or unexpected issue that raises its head to keep everyone busy and engaged.


And so, true to form, it has been another eventful year for the farmer, with very dry conditions in most of Europe during the planting phase for winter grains, not helping the plants get off to the ideal start. This was followed by a milder and drier winter period than normal, so the crops went into hibernation with less moisture than normal and also in some countries with a lot less snow cover than would be required to protect the dormant crops in the event of extreme cold conditions. Mercifully for the most part, such cold conditions did not happen, and there were only a few reports of sudden freezing temperatures causing some minor production losses.


Finally, after months of lower than normal rainfall, the skies opened and most of Europe got some decent rain amounts during April and May, just in the nick of time for many regions.


However, this was followed by the month of June being one of the hottest and driest on record, just at the wrong time for the crucial grain filling stage, which requires moderate temperatures and regular amounts of rainfall.


So, we sit here, waiting to see what arrives in our mills. What will the protein be, the moisture levels, will the kernels be small and so should we expect low test weights? Low test weights for a miller is particularly worrisome, as it leads to poor extraction rates and consequentially lower milling margins.


In addition to the regular quality parameters that we as a wheat miller search for, we also have to be very mindful of bug damage, impurities and toxin levels. All of which can have devastating consequences on the flour we produce, with toxins probably of particular concern in today’s health conscious age.


And just to finish with the quality aspect, wheat is not just wheat. There are six classes and several hundred varieties of wheat, making possible the hundreds of wheat foods. There are the hard wheat flours that provide for the many different types of bread products, soft wheat flours for cakes, crackers, biscuits, pastries etc. and durum wheat flour used for pasta.


Our mills in general intake wheat via trucks and rail wagons, with wheat travelling from several hundreds of miles by train to locally delivered by farmers in truck.


Before any wheat delivery is accepted, samples are taken to ensure the wheat is compliant with both contractual and commercial standards. These tests are conducted in our on-site laboratories by our own in-house technicians and quality teams, using top of the range equipment to ensure the highest of standards and food security. Once the load is accepted it is unloaded directly into pits and moved via conveyors and elevators into large bins or silos.


The storage of grains is considered by many to be a science. The correct moisture, temperature and air must be maintained or the condition of the grain may deteriorate, sprout or ferment. It is also possible that during storage the grain is fumigated to eliminate insect pests. We store wheat according to protein levels and other quality considerations and we may also clean the wheat at this time to further obtain better storage.Along with our company HACCP plan, below details briefly the basic steps in the milling process.


24 | ADMISI - The Ghost In The Machine | July/August 2019


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