China moves to second in world flour exports

by Teresa Acklin
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   LONDON — China has emerged as the world's second largest flour exporter, shipping 45% more flour to foreign markets than the United States in the 1997-98 crop season. China's position as a leading flour exporter was disclosed in a recent Grain Market Report of the International Grains Council, which also pointed to a downward trend in the total of world flour trade.

   In the case of China, where flour exports have been revealed for the first time, that country in the 1997-98 crop season shipped 946,000 tonnes in grain equivalent, or 15.2 million cwts in terms of flour.

   “Notable in recent years is the sharp rise in China's flour exports, which exceeded 900,000 tonnes in 1997-98, with the bulk destined for North Korea,” the I.G.C. said. At the indicated outgo level for 1997-98, China's flour exports were up sharply from 686,000 tonnes in 1996-97 and 274,000 in 1995-96. In prior years, China's shipments of flour in world trade were less than 200,000 tonnes.

   The disclosure of China's flour export participation came as the I.G.C. released revised estimates of world flour trade in the 1997-98 season and initially gave an assessment of the shipment pace in the current 1998-99 season.

   Noting that flour exports in 1997-98, at a revised total of 10 million tonnes of wheat equivalent (161 million cwts in terms of flour), were down from the record shipments of 10,481,000 tonnes in 1996-97, the Council said, “The outlook is for a further drop in wheat flour trade in 1998-99.” It tentatively forecast 1998-99 world flour trade at 9.5 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, down 5% from 1997-98 and off 9% from the 1996-97 record.

   “Preliminary data indicate a very slow pace of sales by the European Community,” the I.G.C. said.

   By mid-February, export licenses had been issued for only 2.7 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, the I.G.C. said, in sharp contrast to the previous year's 5.2 million tonnes. “Licensing statistics are not a reliable guide to sales, but indications are that E.U. shipments will be lower again in 1998-99. Shipments in the period July to September were running 9% behind the comparable period in the previous year. Third country port loadings from France in July-December are estimated to have been about 10% below those in the same months of 1997.”

   Flour shipments by Argentina are also expected to fall, the I.G.C. said, mainly because of a sharp contraction in forecast purchases by Brazil.

   “Exports by the United States are likely to be broadly unchanged, while those from Turkey, formerly the world's second-ranking exporter of flour, are expected to show an increase.”

   The revised world flour export estimate for 1997-98, of 10 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, was up 400,000 from the preliminary figure issued some months ago. Similarly, the current estimate of the 1996-97 record, 10,481,000 tonnes, was above the prior total of 10.3 million. Similarly, the new estimate for 1995-96, of 9,044,000 tonnes, was up from the prior figure of 8.9 million.