World flour trade falls 10%

by Staff
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LONDON, ENGLAND — High prices and limited supplies were cited by the International Grains Council (IGC) in estimating that global trade in wheat flour in 2010-11 fell 10% from the previous year’s peak. Also, in its first forecast of world flour exports for the 2011-12 season just under way, the IGC pointed to the likelihood of a 2% rebound that would still leave the export total well below the record.

The IGC placed world flour exports in 2010-11 at 11,370,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent (marginally above 180 million cwts in terms of flour), compared with the record high of 12,685,000 tonnes in 2009-10. Last year’s shipments also fell short of 12,331,000 in 1998-99 and 11,849,000 in 1997-98. The latter was the first crop year in which exports exceeded 11 million tonnes of wheat equivalent.

The initial forecast by the IGC of world flour exports in 2011-12 totaled 11,620,000 tonnes. This would be up 250,000 tonnes from 2010-11 and reverses a part of the decrease of 1,415,000 in the previous year when the pace dropped precipitously from the prior year’s record.

The current estimate of world flour exports in 2010-11 was revised down by 330,000 tonnes from the forecast made last March. Primarily accounting for that decrease was a reduction of 200,000 tonnes in Afghanistan’s imports of wheat flour, now placed at 1.1 million tonnes. This total was down sharply from Afghanistan‘s imports of 1,779,000 tonnes in 2009-10 and 1,475,000 in 2008-09.

This decrease made Afghanistan the second-ranking flour importer in the crop season just ended instead of the lead it has held in recent years. The top-ranked flour importing country in 2010-11 was Uzbekistan, taking 1.2 million tonnes, compared with 1,499,000 in 2009-10 and 1,222,000 in 2008-09.

The only other importing country taking 1 million tonnes or more in 2010-11 was Indonesia, with imports of 1 million tonnes, the same as in the previous season.

Iraq at 950,000 tonnes and Brazil at 900,000 were also among the leading flour importers in 2010-11.

Kazakhstan held on to its long-time lead as a flour exporter, even though its clearances were down 1 million tonnes from the prior season and were 500,000 less than the prior estimate issued by the IGC in March. The Council placed Kazakhstan’s exports in 2010-11 at 2.5 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, contrasted with its record shipments of 3,514,000 in 2009-10 and also less than 2,733,000 in 2008-09.

According to the IGC, Kazakhstan’s flour exports were restricted by drought-affected wheat production. This cutback mainly affected its trade with Afghanistan, which turned to Pakistan for an increasing volume of imports to replace the flour normally shipped from Kazakhstan.

Another traditional importer from Kazakhstan is Uzbekistan, where imports in 2010-11 totaled 1.3 million tonnes, down from 1,499,000 in the previous season. As noted, this former member of the Soviet Union ranked as the leading flour importer in 2010-11, replacing Afghanistan as the leading buyer.

The IGC pointed out that Indonesia’s flour imports continued to be restrained by expanding domestic milling capacity and a 5% duty on flour imports. In contrast, Angola imported 550,000 tonnes of flour, up from 459,000 in the preceding year, with the business spurred by “solid economic growth underpinning demand for flour,” the IGC said. Purchases by Libya, once a major importer, were limited by the internal conflict in that nation.