Wheat flour trade to decline slightly

by Teresa Acklin
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International Wheat Council estimates 1993-94 trade to be down about 5% from the previous year.

   World wheat flour trade in 1993-94 is estimated at 7.7 million tonnes, wheat equivalent, down about 5% from 1992-93, according to a recent report by the International Wheat Council.

   But the decline in flour trade is relatively modest when compared with the slump in 1993-94 wheat trade; the I.W.C. said it expected total 1993-94 wheat and flour trade to total 90.4 million tonnes, a 12% drop from the previous season.

   In fact, flour trade has held “remarkably steady” in the past two years, the I.W.C. said. Shipments in 1991-92 reached a record 8.2 million tonnes and eased by only 1%, to 8.1 million, the following season. The aggregate two-year decline in flour trade is 6%, compared with a 15% drop in total wheat and flour trade for the same period.

   The relative stability in flour trade was even more surprising given the steep reduction in flour shipments to the former Soviet Union during this period. In 1991, the F.S.U. received slightly more than 1 million tonnes, but flour shipments in 1993-94 are expected to reach only 300,000.

   Nonetheless, flour trade with other areas should continue active, the I.W.C. said. The fact that milling capacity in some countries has not expanded in line with flour use contributes to this forecast; Syria, for example, should remain among the world's leading flour importers, “even resorting to using mills in neighboring Lebanon to meet demand.”

   As a region, Africa remains the top destination. Even though Egypt's flour imports are down considerably from levels in the 1980s, shipments jumped sharply in 1992-93 and should remain sizeable in 1993-94, the I.W.C. predicted.

   Elsewhere in Africa, Libya is expected to be the world's largest individual flour importer at 700,000 tonnes. Shipments to sub-Saharan Africa are likely to total 1.4 million tonnes.

   Algeria, whose flour imports have more than doubled since 1988-89, also will remain a key market. Some of its imports will consist of U.S. wheat toll-milled in Morocco under special U.S. Export Enhancement Program arrangements.

   The I.W.C. characterized flour demand in other regions as “buoyant.” Food assistance to central Europe and the Balkans should be substantial, and assistance to the Asian republics of the F.S.U. will account for the majority of flour trade in that region.

   The I.W.C. said 1993-94 European Union flour exports would be near or slightly higher than the record 4.87 million tonnes shipped in 1992-93. But exports from the United States and Turkey are estimated to drop by 13% and 43%, respectively.

   The I.W.C. noted that flour trade statistics were difficult to compile because of reporting delays and said the estimates “should be treated with due caution.”

World wheat flour trade, destination by regions in thousand tonnes wheat equivalent

Europe 354379142600600
North/Central America362445458532575550
South America235380445406425400
Near East Asia6671,0811,5811,8581,5901,600
Far East Asia1,0531,0531,206999860850
*preliminary **estimated
Source: International Wheat Council

World wheat flour trade, country of origin in thousand tonnes wheat equivalent

Canada 417177198205192200
*preliminary **estimated
Source: International Wheat Council