Global flour exports likely to reach record due to conflicts

by World Grain Staff
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LONDON, ENGLAND — In a newly issued quarterly update on global trade in wheat flour, the International Grains Council (IGC) raised the 2015-16 prospects to a new record. This new peak reflected an increase of 210,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent of global trade in wheat flour, to a record aggregate of 14.73 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, against 14.25 million tonnes in the preceding year and 13.29 million tonnes in 2013-14.

The IGC does not include export trade in durum semolina in its data on flour shipments in global trade. Semolina was expected to account for 400,000 tonnes of global exports in 2015-16, which brings the global aggregate to 15.13 million tonnes, a new peak and above 15 million for the first time in history.

Prior to the estimates for the current crop season, the peak in flour exports occurred in 2011-12, when exports reached 14.56 million tonnes, and adding semolina brought that season’s total to 14.92 million tonnes.

On a flour basis, exports in 2015-16 were forecast to exceed 240 million cwts.

The IGC attributed the upward trend in flour exports in the current season to the continuing effect of armed conflicts on flour supplies in Near East Asia. Iraq and Afghanistan, with expected gains of 100,000 and 400,000 tonnes, respectively, over their expected takings just three months ago were the major increases in the latest IGC report. Iraq maintained its lead as the world’s largest flour importer, forecast to take 2.3 million tonnes in 2015-16, compared with 1.81 million in 2014-15 and 1.44 million in 2013-14. At this level, Iraq’s imports would represent 15.6% of global trade, against 10.8% in 2014-15.

Even with its 400,000-tonne increase in the quarter, to 1.8 million tonnes, Afghanistan was still a distant second to Iraq. Afghanistan’s share of global trade this season was estimated at 12.2%, against 10.3% in the prior crop year.

Only one other country, Uzbekistan, was expected to import more than 1 million tonnes of wheat flour in grain equivalent in 2015-16. Imports by this former affiliate of the Soviet Union were estimated at 1.2 million tonnes in wheat equivalent, against 1.13 million in 2014-15 and 1.4 million in 2013-14.

Near East Asia, expected to import 3.38 million tonnes in 2015-16 and Far East Asia, forecast to take 3.85 million tonnes, were shown as the leading flour import markets on a regional basis. The Near East total, up 200,000 tonnes from a quarter earlier, has Iraq as its leading market. The Far East, showing a quarter gain of 300,000 tonnes, benefits from Afghanistan’s takings.

At one time, it appeared that Far East takings would be expanded by Indonesia imports of flour, which seemed on a sharp upward course. That prospect changes in the most recent quarter when the forecast of that country’s flour imports was cut to 300,000 tonnes from 350,000 previously. Rising demand for wheat-based foods was cited as an important factor in Indonesia’s growing demand, which was showing up mainly in larger wheat imports to supply the local milling industry.

Among flour exporting nations, Pakistan emerged as the major gainer from the import changes in the third quarter of this crop year. The IGC boosted its estimate of Pakistan’s wheat flour exports to 700,000 tonnes, up 300,000 from three months ago, and the same as in 2014-15.

Turkey maintained its wide lead as the top flour exporter, gaining 100,000 tonnes in the quarter to 4.07 million tonnes of wheat equivalent to be shipped in 2015-16, compared with 3.53 million in 2014-15.

Ranking a distant second as a flour exporter was Kazakhstan, forecast to ship 2.5 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, down 150,000 for the quarter, and compared with 2.38 million tonnes in 2014-15 and 2.76 million in 2013-14.

Flour exports from the European Union were increased by 100,000 tonnes in the third quarter, to a total of 1 million tonnes. That compared with 900,000 in 2014-15 and 920,000 in the prior crop year.

Pakistan ranked fourth in flour exporting with shipments this crop year estimated at 700,000 tonnes, nearly the same as in the previous two crop seasons. Other Asian exporters of flour included China, shipping 250,000 tonnes, against 218,000 in 2014-15 and India moving 400,000 tonnes, against 418,000 in the prior year.

The largest flour exporter in the Western Hemisphere will be Argentina, expected to ship 600,000 tonnes, against 552,000 in 2014-15. This related to Brazil’s role as the region’s largest importer, forecast at 500,000 tonnes in 2015-16.

In North America, Canada was expected to import 140,000 tonnes of wheat flour in grain equivalent, against exports of 350,000; Mexico to import 200,000 tonnes, and the U.S. to take in 275,000, against 325,0000 in the previous season, and to export 400,000, compared with 388,000 in 2014-15.

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