Cigi ‘wheat guide book’ helping build technical knowledge in Bangladesh

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Six months after it was launched, a handbook on evaluating wheat and flour quality jointly produced by Cigi and the High Commission of Canada in Bangladesh continues to be in demand by millers and bakers in that country, which has become a significant market for Canadian wheat.

The volume entitled “Basic Tests Used to Evaluate Wheat and Flour Quality” was launched during an “Innovation and Agriculture” technical seminar in Dhaka held by the High Commission of Canada in Bangladesh in August 2014. Published in both the native language Bangla as well as English to maximize its usability amongst readers, Trade Commissioner Kamal Uddin says well over half of the 350 copies printed have been distributed thus far.  Content for the book was developed by Cigi staff.

Wheat Quality Handbook launch

Heather Cruden, High Commissioner of Canada in Bangladesh (third from left) and Cigi’s Elaine Sopiwnyk (far left) are pictured during the launch of the ‘Wheat Guide Book’ during a seminar on Innovation and Agriculture held in Dhaka, Bangladesh in August 2014. Also attending the event were senior representatives from the Bangladesh government, industry and agricultural university.

“This bilingual guide is the first of its kind,” says Heather Cruden, High Commissioner of Canada in Bangladesh. “I believe it will help the millers, bakers and technicians understand and practise appropriate tests to assess wheat and flour quality. It will also help in understanding quality parameters of Canadian wheat.”

Featuring an overview of the different tests used, plus question and answer sections on wheat and flour quality testing and optimizing flour mill operations, the release of the book is well-timed as wheat consumption is increasing in Bangladesh where currently the cost of wheat flour is lower than the cost of rice for the consumer. Traditionally rice is the dominant grain in the Bangladeshi diet.

There are five large flour mills in Bangladesh and with the construction of more mills planned, that number is expected to increase to eight. The most recent mill to open, Bashundhara, has a fully equipped quality control lab, a feature not typically found in other facilities in the region. 

“They have set a new standard for the market in terms of their ability to evaluate quality,” says Elaine Sopiwnyk, Cigi Director of Science and Innovation, who travelled to Bangladesh in August to deliver technical seminars on Canadian wheat and visit local mills along with Ashok Sarkar, Senior Advisor, Technology and Yvonne Supeene, Head of Baking Technology. During previous visits to the region the Cigi team had observed that the main tests used were typically limited to wet gluten content, moisture and falling number.

“It’s a very basic skill set in that market so there is lots of opportunity to improve their technical knowledge to ensure they are achieving optimal performance from the wheat they are buying,” says Elaine.

With its large and growing population (159 million), Bangladesh has become an important market for Canada Western Red Spring wheat and has ranked among the top five importing countries of Canadian wheat over the past five years. In 2013 Bangladesh imported 742,000 tonnes of wheat from Canada. It also imports wheat from Russia, Ukraine and Australia.

“They are buying higher protein number one and two CWRS,” says Elaine. It is predominantly blended with wheat from India to produce maida, a flour with high wet gluten content used for pan bread, high quality naan and biscuits. It may have as little as 50% CWRS in the grist while higher quality maida will have up to 80 to 100% CWRS. Atta flour, which has lower wet gluten content than maida, is also produced for use primarily in roti, a staple baked end-product. 

Cigi staff were able to see the response to the handbook first-hand in August when copies were distributed to employees during visits to mills. “They seemed really happy about it because there wasn’t anything specific for them in their language before,” says Elaine. “It’s nice to be part of creating something that you know will be useful.”

Book Inside_ Basic Test Book

The bilingual guide is the first of its kind and will help Bangladesh millers, bakers and technicians understand and practise appropriate tests to assess wheat and flour quality.

Since that time the Canadian High Commission in Bangladesh has received requests for the handbook (now best known as the Wheat Guide Book) from bakers and small millers. It is also being made available during trade events, says Trade Commissioner Uddin.

“Our concerted efforts, including their (Cigi’s) visits, created a demand for a Wheat Guide Book in Bangla,” says High Commissioner Cruden. “I hope that our collaboration with Cigi will continue, our sales of Canadian wheat to Bangladesh will continue to grow, and the Bangladeshi market will benefit from Cigi’s experience. Ultimately, this benefits the Bangladeshi people.”