World flour exports hold at depressed level

by Emily Wilson
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In contrast with a 5% increase in global trade in wheat, world exports of flour in the 1999-00 season were unchanged from the "depressed level" of the previous year, according to preliminary estimates issued by the London-based International Grains Council in its June "Grain Market Report."

According to the I.G.C., global exports of wheat flour in 1999-00 were 8.4 million tonnes in wheat equivalent, the same as in 1998-99. This lagged considerably the total 10,228,000 tonnes shipped in 1997-98 and the record of 10,481,000 tonnes in 1996-97.

The flour export totals do not include shipments of durum semolina. Durum semolina outgo in 1999-00 was estimated at 300,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent, up from 240,000 in 1998-99 and 251,000 in 1997-98.

Unchanged flour shipments contrasted with world wheat trade rising to the largest outgo since 1992-93, the I.G.C. said. The total world wheat trade, which includes flour, was estimated at 102.4 million tonnes, compared with 96.8 million in the previous season and 99.2 million in 1997-98.

Flour's share of the global wheat and flour export volume in 1999-00 was down to 8.2%, against the recent high of 11% in 1996-97. "Statistics for the world's major flour exporters indicate little change in 1999-00 shipments by the European Union, a marked reduction in Argentina and a significant further recovery in flour exports by the United States, the bulk of these in the form of food aid," the I.G.C. said. "Significant, too, is the role played by several wheat importing countries selling flour, including Gulf States such as the United Arab Emirates."

The E.U. continued to be the dominant flour exporter in 1999-00. Its shipments of 4.3 million tonnes in grain equivalent accounted for 51.2% of total world flour exports. The E.U. has accounted for more than 50% of world flour exports in every season since 1983-84.

U.S. flour exports in the 1999-00 crop year reached 1.3 million tonnes in wheat equivalent, accounting for 15.5% of the trade total. Japan shipped 500,000 tonnes, which was 6% of the world total. Argentina and Turkey each shipped 400,000 tonnes, down considerably from their recent peaks.

Although China's flour exports fell once again in 1999-00, its total 300,000 tonnes was still 3.6% of the world total.

For the second crop year in a row, Yemen was the only destination accounting for world flour shipments of 1 million tonnes. Yemen's share of global flour trade, at 11.9%, was down from 12.5% in 1998-99.

On a regional basis, sub-Saharan Africa was the largest importer of flour in 1999-00, taking a total of 1,750,000 tonnes, accounting for 20.8% of world flour trade. Far East Asia, accounting for imports of 1,640,000 tonnes in grain equivalent, was the next ranking destination for flour shipments. Primarily driving this growth was the emergence of Indonesia as a major flour importer, taking 500,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent in 1999-00, against 160,000 in the prior season and almost nothing in earlier years.