PARIS (B)--The quality of the 2000-01 French wheat appears to be better than originally feared, according to the first results of analysis led by the French grains agency (ONIC) and the French technical institute of cereals (ITCF).

"The average protein level of the wheat crop is 11.3%, which is a 0.2% rise on last year," Pierre-Olivier Drege, director general of ONIC, said Sept. 13.

"The most hindering aspect of the wheat crop is the low average of the Hagberg falling number," Christian Lapointe, President of ONIC said at the body's monthly press briefing. "However, with 65% of French wheat with a Hagberg falling number above 150 seconds we will be able to satisfy our bread-making needs without any problems," he added. "A good bread-making wheat needs a minimum of 150 seconds as a minimum Hagberg level as opposed to the 220 needed for intervention," Drege said.

He added that European countries such as Italy also buy wheat with a minimum Hagberg of 150. The ONIC added that 31% of wheat has Hagberg above 220 and that 79% had a protein content above 11%. Drege said there was a 55% increase of wheat with a protein content above 11%.

"The physical wheat quality has obtained an average humidity content of 13.9% and specific weights of 74.6 kilograms per hectoliter."

ONIC, in partnership with France Export Cereales, France's cereal promotion body, said it would tour all countries which traditionally import French wheat or that could be potential importers, in a bid to promote the French wheat quality. "We need to demonstrate the quality of French wheat."

The mission starts Sept. 14 at a symposium in Warsaw (Poland) to promote French grain.

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