Prices for bread flour have fallen from their highs of 2008, but price pressures are constant for wheat flour used in bread formulations as quality concerns remain.
In April 2008, milling wheat for bread in the UK hovered at €217 a tonne, a figure that compares to this month's levels in the range of €187 a tonne.
"The prices for bread flour haven't fallen that much this year, due to the wet summer and poorer protein quality of the milling bread wheat last year that led to tighter availability of good quality bread flour," explained an economist from the UK's Home Grown Cereal Authority (HGCA).
With availability still tight, millers are waiting and hoping for better quality bread wheat in 2009 that could reduce input pressure for their key ingredient, and also the need for imports.
"Between 80 and 85 per cent of bread flour for millers is homegrown in the UK, with the remaining tonnage imported from Europe - Germany mainly - and possibly Canada and the US," the HGCA economist told BakeryandSnacks.com.
The poorer quality wheat caused by the UK's wet summer in 2008 engendered a reduced protein content. As a consequence imports by millers into the UK in 2008 were primarily motivated by the need to boost the protein content of their flour, essential for the gluten content millers need to make bread.
In contrast to wheat, corn prices have fallen "significantly" from a year ago. The Chicago Board of Trade posted a high of $235 a tonne for maize in April 2008, a figure that has since fallen steadily to $160 t tonne recorded in April this year.
"A drop that reflects less the fundamentals of the commodity market, and more the free-fall in price for oil," said the economist, clarifying that as oil becomes cheaper, so demand for ethanol - produced from corn - diminishes.