World flour trade estimates continue to climb

by Susan Reidy
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World trade in wheat flour is continuing its upward climb, with the International Grains Council (IGC) increasing its estimate of this crop year’s trade to 16.6 million tonnes, the same as the updated estimate for the 2015-16 crop year.

In its May Market Report, the IGC increased its estimate by 500,000 tonnes from its February projections. It also revised upward the estimated total trade for 2015-16 from 15.9 million tonnes to 16.6 million tonnes.

The new estimate of 16.6 million tonnes, reflecting flour exports in terms of wheat ground, was equal to nearly 327 million cwts of flour.

These estimates are the first time trade in wheat flour has surpassed 16 million tonnes. Global flour exports have trended upward since 2012-13, when 12.65 million tonnes were traded. Flour exports first passed 12 million tonnes in 2007-08, 13 million and 14 million in 2011-12, and 15 million in 2015-16. It was in 2002-03 that flour exports first moved above 10 million tonnes.

Rising demand in Asia and Africa is expected to drive a further increase in global flour trade in 2017-18, to a projected 16.8 million tonnes, the IGC said. Turkey will probably remain the single largest exporter, with shipments placed at 5.8 million tonnes, given strong demand in Iraq and sub-Saharan Africa.

The IGC does not include exports of durum semolina in its computations on global flour exports. Durum semolina shipments in the current crop season were forecast at 420,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, compared with 400,000 in the previous crop season. Adding in these exports brings the prospective 2016-17 total outgo to 17.02 million tonnes, against 16.2 million in the preceding season.

Export increases were seen in Argentina, Canada and Kazakhstan. Argentina broke into the million-tonne category with an even 1 million tonnes, up from the previous forecast of 850,000 tonnes. This is a significant increase for a country that exported 652,000 tonnes in 2014-15 and an estimated 717,000 tonnes in 2015-16.

Kazakhstan, the second largest exporter, saw a 100,000-tonne increase to 3.3 million tonnes. This is up from 2.394 million tonnes in 2014-15 and 3.052 million tonnes in 2015-16.

Estimates for Canada increased 50,000 tonnes to a total of 350,000 tonnes. In 2014-15, the nation exported 343,000 tonnes and in 2015-16 it exported 307,000 tonnes.

Turkey, which is the leading flour exporter by a wide margin, saw its forecast hold steady at 5.4 million tonnes. This is up from 4.94 million tonnes in 2015-16 and 3.531 million tonnes in 2014-15.

Also holding steady was the European Union, which includes 28 member countries, at 1.2 million tonnes.

The United States exported 450,000 tonnes, up 15,000 from the previous forecast and increasing slightly from 437,000 in 2015-16.