Weetabix will have to continue buying some wheat from abroad despite the improved quality of this year’s domestic crop.
The cereal brand is committed to buying its wheat from farmers within a 50-mile radius of its factory in Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire.
However, after last year’s poor harvest, Weetabix had to source a small portion of its wheat from overseas. It bought 4% from abroad after specialist crops such as white wheat failed.
This year, the white wheat crop has failed again, this time because of the exceptionally wet spring, meaning Weetabix will have to continue buying a small percentage of its wheat from overseas.
“We are seeing better quality wheat this year but there was still a failure in white wheat,” said Weetabix CEO Giles Turrell. “We will still be able to source more than 90% of the wheat we need from within 50 miles of Burton Latimer and I’m proud of that.”
After last year’s poor harvest, Weetabix said it remained committed to buying locally but that delivering on its pledge to source 100% of its wheat from Britain was dependent on the weather.
To prepare for other bad harvests, Weetabix has upgraded its factory equipment, so it can process lower-quality wheat. The work disrupted production of Weetabix Minis, which came off sale for two months earlier this year as a result.
This week, Defra forecast that wheat imports would fall 45% to 1.6 million tonnes in 2013/2014 because of the improved quality of this year’s crop. It said a much higher portion of the harvest had met milling specifications.
However, last month it said that the size of the crop was down 8.7% on last year because the wet weather delayed plantings, resulting in an 18% reduction on the total planted area.