Quality parameters of agricultural commodities are the focus of attention of all market players. Very often it happens that there is a discrepancy between what was expected and what the reality was. And this can drastically change market situation in terms of both prices and destination of exported commodities. And this is exactly what we noticed during previous seasons and what becomes crucial in a view of growing competition on the global market and intensification of quality requirements of importers (e.g. phytosanitary requirements). So, what is the quality of the 2019 crops and does it meet requirements of the key importers?
These questions and many others APK-Inform Agency discussed with Oleg Onischenko — Technical & Claims Questions manager at SGS Ukraine with more than 25 years of quality assurance experience.
— According to the statistics of the commercial project “Quality Map” and other SGS projects, how do You estimate quality of early grain crops in 2019 in Ukraine?
When analyzing quality of 2019 grains, we must take into account weather conditions in Ukraine in 2018-2019. In 2018, absence of necessary precipitation in August, hot September and long harvest of late crops delayed soil preparation and planting of the winter crops.
Dry beginning of October and early temperature decline prevented proper growth and development of sowings and did not allow crops to get ready for winter.
However, the ideal winter conditions favored rather successful wintering of almost all winter crops.
Early spring with its gradual temperature rise allowed grain crops to compensate the lack of spring vegetation and agrarians could apply fertilizers on time.
Drought that lasted from the end of February until May led to the reduction of the productivity and some quality problems (test weight, shrivelled grains) mostly in South/East regions.
Rains during last ten days of May and in June improved the situation around the country and allowed to receive good grain crops.
If we speak about barley, the main change of its quality, according to the SGS statistics included the reduction of the test weight from 64.2 kg/hl (2018 crop) to 63.6 kg/hl (2019 crop), the increase of the shrivelled grains content from 3.80% to 11.29%, and the increase of the protein content from 10.98% to 12.04%.
Weather conditions during the vegetation period, lack of moisture and high air temperatures were the main reasons of the decline of barley test weight and the increase of the shrivelled grains content. At the same time, the increase of the protein content in our opinion was caused by the redistribution of the reserve constituents in kernels with more important substance from biological point of view — protein, which typically occur during the unfavorable growing conditions.
In rapeseeds we mostly witnessed decline of oil content (on dry basis) from 47.45% to 45.22% and oil content (as is) from 43.77% to 41.68%, respectively.
— What have caused these changes?
In our opinion, these changes could have been caused by such factors as:
- Planting of the seed F2 and the varieties of unknown reproduction and selection with low oil yield potential in order to reduce the expenditures for seeds.
- Harvest conducted before the optimal rapeseed vegetation window for oil content (use of desiccants for earlier and faster harvest). During the rapeseed harvest when there is 40-80% of the seedpods going white the percentage of the oil content will be lower compared to the harvest conducted during the full ripeness stage, but it allows to receive higher production volumes due to the reduction of the natural losses. Late sowings also play a role, as the rapeseeds in autumn are late to build up the vegetation mass and have underserved root neck which during the spring vegetation limits the nutrition and moisture enrichment.
— And what about wheat?
Grains of wheat witnessed similar changes as barley grains in terms of test weight and shrivelled grains content which were caused by the same weather conditions.
Test weight has declined in average from 79.5 kg/hl (2018 crop) to 78.0 kg/hl (2019 crop), and content of shriveled grains increased from 1.34% to 2.14%.
Sprouted grains content declined in average from 0.50% to 0.08% and falling number increased from 313 s to 372 s, which was also connected with the weather conditions during the harvest.
— In the previous 3 seasons the inefficient average protein content in wheat (11.5-11.9%) caused certain difficulties for Ukrainian millers. What are Your estimations of the wheat crop in 2019 in terms of the protein and wet gluten content?
According to the SGS Ukraine statistics the protein content in average increased from 11.9% (in 2018) to 12.58% (in 2019) and the wet gluten content (mechanical washing by Glutomatic) increased from 22.1% to 26.1% despite the fact that in recent years the protein and wet gluten content ration correlated differently. During last season-2018/19, protein content did not fully correspond to the expected rate of the wet gluten content (mechanical washing). For example, delivering wheat batch by sea with 11.5% average protein content and expecting wet gluten content (mechanical washing) to total nearly 23% (usually the real wet gluten content was lower than 23%), it was necessary to provide more thorough control during the preparations of the batch to comply with contract requirements. If we speak about wheat of 2019 crop, the situation has changed drastically.
Quality analysis of wheat for the last 16 years shows that the average protein content in 2019 wheat crop is among the top five highest indicators in the period, and wet gluten content (mechanical washing) — in top three.
In our opinion, the increase of protein content was caused by the use of the nitrogen fertilizers, in particular use of urea during the stage of feeling pods, and also the use of more modern (valued) varieties of grain during the sowing campaign, and also because of the redistribution of the reserve constituents in the small kernels in favor of more valuable component — protein, which is common in terms of the unfavorable weather conditions.
— Some importers have got the impression that the quality of the milling wheat of 2019 crop in Ukraine is the worst for 3 years, in particular in terms of such parameters as dough deformation energy (W) and bug damaged grains content. Is it true?
The bug damaged grains content declined from an average 1.54% (2018 crop) to 1.00% (2019 crop).
According to the statistical data, we can see that the amount of wheat with the bug damaged grains content is less than 1% in 2019 crop increased in average to 81.8% compared to 73.7% in 2018 crop, and bug damaged grains content with less than 0.5% amounts to 72.1% of the total 2019 crop.
However, there is 10.5% of wheat with 2.0% of bug damaged grains content and lack of control during the preparation of export batches which altogether keep us on guard. Mainly, this factor is a critical if W value does not correspond to the international contract requirements.
Despite the fact that the dough deformation energy (W value) increased in general from 199х10-4 J (2018 crop) to 218х10-4 J (2019 crop), according to the increase of the protein content, this growth is lower than expected.
In this figure, we can see that share of wheat with the protein content not less than 12.5% in 2019 crop increased to 52.9% compared to 33.6% in 2018.
It also shows that the amount of wheat with W value more than 160 and 180 (х10-4 J), which correspond to the 10.5%-12.5% protein content, declined significantly, whereas the amount of wheat with the W value more than 160 and 180 and 200 (х10-4 J), which correspond to the protein content higher than 12.5%, increased.
Herewith, it should be noted that amount of wheat with W value more than 250 (х10-4 J) and especially more than 300 (х10-4 J) is not very high, and we have warned about this earlier and this should be taken into account when concluding foreign trade contracts.
At the same time, in general the P/L (dough resistance (tenacity) to extensibility ratio) decreased drastically — from nearly 1.3 (2018 crop) to 0.6 (2019 crop), and G (dough swelling) increased from 18.4 to 23.1, which should be taken into account during negotiation of trade contracts.
— Several problems connected with the contamination of wheat and barley with fungi became the feature of the last season. How can You comment on this situation in 2019/20?
As You know, in 2018 crop, results of the mycological inspection showed presence of the spores of such fungi species as Alternaria and Cladosporium. Herewith, usually color of the grain visually differed and made the grain look contaminated, whereas the real rate of the contamination with smut was low or totally absent.
If short, the 2019 crop has no signs of the high contamination with Alternaria and Cladosporium fungi. The situation is not critical compared to last year, but we cannot call it perfect.
— Is there any progress with the development of the more quality methods of definition of the contaminated kernels?
The method of the mycological inspection of the smut spores, with accordance to the DSTU 3768:2019, is rather quality and low time-consuming method (compared to the existing method). And we hope that this method along with the DSTU requirements will help to manage the similar situation in the future.
— What are Your estimates of the wheat grades distribution in 2019 (excluding the fungi contaminated kernels)?
According to SGS Ukraine statistics, the theoretical distribution per grades (regardless of kernel fungi contamination and moisture grade requirements, taking into account the recommended requirements for the W value and bug damaged grains content) are as shown below:
In 2018/19 TY the soft wheat was divided into 6 grades and this TY — into 4.
If not focus on the slight changes in the requirements for the first three grades of common wheat, quantity of wheat that meets the requirements increased by 3.8%.
— In general, does wheat of 2019 crop fully meet the requirements of importers? What parameters are most troublesome?
If we speak about the milling wheat, it is easier to answer the question with our statistical data comparison with the standard import requirement of Indonesia.
The share of common wheat with 11.5% of protein content (2019 crop) is 78.0%, which is higher year-on year (63.6%).
However, taking into account the restrictions of the other parameters (test weight, foreign matter, falling number, wet gluten content (mechanical washing by Glutomatic), and also presence of the bug damaged grains), 48.7% of the total wheat crop in 2019 corresponds with the requirements of the international contract of, compared to 23.7% last year crop.
All the above demonstrates the y-o-y increase of the common wheat quality potential.
In 2019/20 TY the milling wheat had problems with dough deformation energy (W value). But we should repeat that the main reason of this problem is lack of intake quality control during preparation of export batches.
— According to the SGS data, how do You estimate the quality of the late grain crop in Ukraine this year?
If we look at quality of corn, which is the main late crop, and compare it with the previous year results, we will not see significant changes.
We can only notice an increase of the Ambrosia seeds content, and also the slight lowering of the test weight — from 76.2 kg/hl (2018 crop) to 75.4 kg/hl (2019 crop), which is not critical for the majority of the international contracts (minimum 69 kg/hl, minimum 70 kg/hl).
— For a long time the Ukrainian corn was promoted as non-GM, that is why it was of high demand and premium. How can You comment the recent issue when there was GM corn and corn with high pesticide rate found in Ukrainian seaports?
For many years the maximum GM lines content in Ukrainian corn grain traditionally was less than 0.1% (corn not GMO in accordance with EU requirements).
Herewith, corn free of GMO (GM lines content less than 0.01%) accounted for 10.17% of the crop.
In 2018/19 MY we informed about appearance of single batches of corn with GM lines content of 0.1-0.9% (corn not GMO in accordance with EU requirements) and even more than 0.9% (GMO corn in accordance with EU requirements). From our side, we informed market players about the necessity to organize express-control when forming corn batches as it has been provided for rapeseed and soybeans.
— We understand that these issues are main in export of corn to China and the EU, which are in fact the main markets. How fast is the reaction of the importer on such information? How common are the same cases? How does it affect the country’s reputation?
Based on the SGS Ukraine statistics, GMO corn as per EU requirements was found in 2.4% of the samples tested as per PCR method.
Any information, especially negative, validated or not, spreads fast and of course negatively effects the country’s reputation, and hurts competitiveness and commodity price on the global market.
According to our information: based on the cases we are familiar with, the possibility to control GMO content in cargo consignment allowed to prevent or timely resolve problems. Of course, we understand that some additional costs were associated.
The local market responded quickly to the risks and currently we see more companies and terminals that successfully provide express-control of GMO content during composition of corn batches.
In our opinion, these steps allowed to significantly reduce possible risks.
— If we speak about the oilseeds market, many market participants mention the good quality of the new crop sunflower seeds (especially the oil content), herewith, they inform about the deterioration of the soybean quality compared to last year (protein content in particular). Please, share the estimates of Your company.
This season sunflower seeds oil content is the highest during the past 5 seasons.
In our opinion, market relations played a positive role here. Earlier some buyers introduced bonus for high oil content and reduced prices if this parameter was low. This forced farmers to select seeds more carefully. Moreover, it become easier to find and buy new hybrids with the higher oil content potential. Seeds production companies on their side fought against the counterfeit products and fake seeds. Some of them transferred to the direct selling of the seeds. Moreover, there have been developed and implemented new technologies focused on increase of oil content of sunflower seeds plant nutrition.
Based on SGS Ukraine statistics we see no significant changes in quality parameters of soybeans compared to the previous season.
If we analyze the multiyear statistics, we won’t see the protein rate decline, but there are rather minor changes compared to the average rate for the last 4 years.
— In conclusion, I want to thank You for our conversation and ask You to share the plans of Your company development.
Following global trends, we and our clients pay increasing attention to the safety parameters testing. To assure quality, accuracy and speed of testing and certification, we recommend our clients to use the SGS laboratory in Odessa. We constantly invest in expansion and modernization of our testing facilities. For example, in 2019 SGS laboratory in Ukraine received accreditation against the GMP+ B11 standard.
Also, we are proud to announce that in 2019 we achieved 'Approved Fumigator' status from Gafta.
The fumigation is important for every sector of the food and feed industry as it prevents the spread of pests and minimize the risk of damage to goods.
We are constantly looking beyond customers’ and society’s expectations in order to deliver market leading services wherever they are needed. As the leader in providing specialized business solutions that improve quality, safety and productivity and reduce risk, we help customers navigate an increasingly regulated world. Our independent services add significant value to our customers’ operations and ensure business sustainability.
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Interviewed by Anna Tanskaya, APK-Inform Agency