Thursday, May 27, 2021
5 crop farmers, a miller, a baker and Bio-Planet together form a new chain for Belgian organic baking wheat
Why there is hardly any bread with homegrown wheat on the shelves
Colruyt Group wants to help customers consume more consciously and sustainably. Locally produced food plays an important role in this. That is why the group continuously invests in the broadest possible Belgian assortment. Yet, to this day, there is hardly any Belgian wheat bread on the shelves. The reason is simple: for Belgian crop farmers, the cultivation of baking wheat is financially uncertain. They get about the same price for baking wheat as for feed wheat, while the yield of baking wheat is much lower. Moreover, they have to contend with wheat imports from Germany and Eastern Europe. And, of course, the unpredictable weather conditions in Belgium also play tricks on local wheat growers. As a result, the quality of their wheat and their harvest is uncertain. Finally, farmers are afraid to take the plunge because they have no guaranteed market.
Colruyt Group wants to break that circle and therefore gathered various links in the chain around the table: 5 crop farmers, flour mill Molens van Oudenaarde, bakery Atelier du Pain and organic supermarket Bio-Planet. These 8 partners are today signing a cooperation agreement, in which they express their commitments to each other. “The different players in this new chain all stick to their own trade and do what they do best. That is the strength of this partnership,” says Jan Van Holsbeke, Bio-Planet division manager. “However, clear agreements about volume, quality and price were made in advance between the partners. The fact that Bio-Planet, as the last link in the chain, is involved in the commitment gives the necessary oxygen to the growers, the miller and the baker.”
The new chain will not only provide guaranteed sales for each of the parties involved, but should also give a boost to the Belgian organic wheat sector and convince other crop farmers to opt for high-quality organic baking wheat varieties.
New chain for Belgian bread grain
To turn this new chain into a success, the 8 partners will get support from knowledge institution Inagro (Research and Advice in Agriculture and Horticulture). Together with crop supervisor Lieven Delanote from Inagro, several wheat varieties were selected: “For baking wheat, the protein quality is very important. We can achieve this with specific varieties. From our variety research, the winter wheat Mochus and Arminius and the spring wheat Feeling were selected together with the partners. We are therefore following up this project closely and will share the knowledge with the entire wheat sector.”
The 5 crop farmers who are geographically spread in Belgium together sowed 12 hectares of baking wheat. If all goes well, they hope to harvest about 55 tonnes of wheat in August. “In organic farming, crop rotation is extremely important. Cereal cultivation is essential as a rest crop for the farmer and the soil and gives the opportunity to invest in a follow-up crop that is good for carbon storage, erosion control and nitrogen management," says Guy Depraetere, an organic farmer of potatoes, cabbages, pumpkins, beans and celeriac in Lierde. "I consciously choose products with added value, such as baking wheat. But a local market and the right price are decisive factors. The fact that all partners enter into a sustainable chain commitment facilitates and justifies the step to baking grains for me as an organic farmer, the first link on the road to fully Belgian organic bread."
Once the wheat has been harvested, it goes to the Molens van Oudenaarde mills that will grind it into Belgian organic flour. After that, bakery Atelier du Pain will start working with it to bake quality organic breads, which will be sold in the 31 shops and the Bio-Planet stores and online shop in autumn. “We are aiming for 3 different types of organic bread and together with Atelier du Pain we are now looking at which ones we will be offering,” says Jan Van Holsbeke, Bio-Planet division manager. “In the longer term, we certainly want to increase the proportion of Belgian bread on our shelves. After all, that is still the main goal of this new chain: to offer our customers bread made from Belgian raw materials and by Belgian players and, in this way, to set in motion a positive movement that will enable the Belgian organic baking wheat sector to flourish.”