Wheat flour

by Teresa Acklin
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   After reaching a record in 1994-95 global exports of flour fell 12% in 1995-96 according to preliminary estimates by the International Grains Council.

   The Council estimated total world wheat flour trade in 1995-96 at 8.195 million tonnes, wheat equivalent, down 1.1 million tonnes from the record-setting trade of 9.295 million in 1994-95.

   Global wheat flour trade generally has been on an upward course since the low of 5.861 million tonnes in 1985-86. From that low through 1994-95, flour trade soared 59%, in a period when global trade in wheat gained hardly 10%.

   While emphasizing that data on 1995-96 flour exports were incomplete, the I.G.C. noted the decline was highlighted by import reductions from leading buyers such as Algeria, Yemen and Syria.

   "In the case of Syria, a marked expansion in domestic flour milling capacity is the main reason," the I.G.C. said. "Reduced availabilities of food aid also affected imports by some low-income developing countries." But some countries, notably Russia, saw an increase in imports. Russian purchases from third countries were expected to reach 600,000 tonnes, in stark comparison with 1993-94, when shipments were negligible.

   The I.G.C. said high domestic flour prices relative to wheat prices and quality factors contributed to the much-increased Russian rate of buying from non-Commonwealth of Independent States sources. In addition, up to 1 million tonnes were sourced in neighboring C.I.S. republics, mostly from Ukraine, and these imports were not included in the I.G.C. trade total.

   The Council pointed out that nearly all flour exporters registered a decrease in shipments in 1995-96. The sharpest reduction occurred in U.S. flour exports, which dropped 27% from 1994-95 to 1.2 million tonnes.

   The world's leading flour exporter, the European Union, was expected to export 4.4 million tonnes, down 11% from 1994-95. E.U. flour exports peaked at 5.033 million in 1993-94.

   But the E.U. share of flour trade was projected to increase to 53.7%, compared with 53.4% the previous season and a peak of 61.2% in 1993-94. At the same time, the U.S. share was projected to drop to 14.6%, a new low, contrasted with 17.8% the previous season and the recent peak of 18.4% in 1992-93.

   Turkey remained in third place as a flour exporter, accounting for shipments of 800,000 tonnes, or a 9.8% share, against 784,000 in 1994-95. Turkey's record export level is 943,000 tonnes in 1991-92, which represented 11.5% of global exports.

   Japan ranked fourth as a flour exporter, according to the I.G.C., with shipments of 450,000 tonnes, little changed from the preceding several years.

   Yemen remained the largest individual importing country in 1995-96, taking 800,000 tonnes, although that total was down sharply from 1.080 million the year before.

   Algeria provided an outlet for 700,000 tonnes, not including its semolina imports, which would add 200,000 tonnes. Algeria's imports were down 26% from 940,000 tonnes in 1994-95. Libya provided a market for 600,000 tonnes, against 710,000 in 1994-95.

   Egypt, the country that at one time was the world's leading flour importer by far, imported 300,000 tonnes in 1995-96 against 350,000 the previous season. Egypt imported 2.635 million tonnes of flour in 1983-84.