For the first time in several years, farmers are receiving a premium of up to 50 cents a bushel for club wheat over the price of other soft white wheat.
“We didn’t have any premiums for several years because we had large supplies of club wheat,” said Kevin Whitehall, industry representative for the Washington Grain Commission and CEO of Central Washington Grain Growers in Waterville, Wash.
Club wheat is a subclass of soft white wheat. The head is more compact than other classes of wheat, giving it a clubbed appearance. Club wheat, which has a lower gluten content, is primarily grown in the Pacific Northwest and blended with soft white wheat to make western white wheat for customers in Japan and Taiwan. Western white wheat is typically a blend of 80 percent soft white wheat and 20 percent club wheat and is used in cakes, cookies and pastries.
Growers likely moved away from club varieties during the past few years because there were no premiums, Whitehall said.
Most growers tend to see a little lower yield with club wheat compared with regular soft white wheat, said Dan Steiner, grain merchant for Pendleton Grain Growers and Morrow County Grain Growers, but some newer club varieties have little or no yield drag.
If there’s a big loss of club wheat due to winterkill or drought, premiums could go a little higher again the next year, Steiner said.
“A 50-cent, 60-cent premium is a pretty good level,” he said. “I wouldn’t expect it to go a lot higher than where it’s at right now.”
Whitehall said some farmers elect to plant some club wheat every year.
“They’re going to be right half the time, anyway,” he said. “I’m happy for the club wheat producer that he’s realizing a premium this year. We need the club wheat to take care of our Japanese western white sales. So we need those farmers. Nobody’s forcing them to grow it, but we do need that production to make sure we can make the sales.”