Upheavals, regime changes in leading flour importers

by World Grain Staff
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LONDON, ENGLAND — In revising its estimate of world trade in wheat flour during the 2010-11 season, the International Grains Council (IGC) only noted the impact of rising prices on demand for flour imports. The IGC said nothing about how the revolutions and political upheavals that have been occurring in recent weeks and months in countries ranking among the major flour consumers as well as global importers.

Much of the political and military upheavals in the North African and Arab nations was ascribed to widespread public dissatisfaction with dictatorial regimes. High food prices and even food shortages were often cited as core problems in these countries where flour-based foods account for a large part of the diet. Just how flour imports will be affected was not yet apparent.

North Africa and the Middle East are the areas that have been experiencing internal turmoil, including regime changes and protests that have attracted considerable attention. These two regions account for 15% of world flour imports in 2010-11.

In its latest estimates, the IGC estimated flour imports by North Africa at 370,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent, down from the prior estimate of 520,000 tonnes and also less than imports of 400,000 in 2009-10. For the Near or Middle East, the latest IGC flour import estimate was 1,420,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, down 200,000 from its takings in the prior year.

As recently as 2007-08, Libya, the leading flour importer in North Africa, took 1,060,000 tonnes, which ranked it near the top as a flour importer. Its imports for 2010-11 were newly estimated at 350,000 tonnes.

Iraq is the leading flour importer in the Middle East, accounting for expected takings in 2010-11 of 1 million tonnes, down by 200,000 tonnes from the preceding year.
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