IGC raises global flour export forecast

by Morton Sosland
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This would mark first time wheat flour exports have exceeded 16 million tonnes.
Photo courtesy of Adobe stock. 
 
LONDON, ENGLAND — Once again in its quarterly assessment of world trade in wheat flour, the International Grains Council (IGC) raised its estimate of this crop year’s trade to an even larger new record than previously indicated. In its February Grain Market Report, the IGC placed prospective flour trade in 2016-17 at 16.1 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, up 600,000 tonnes from the prior expectation. The record forecast, also marking the first time that trade in wheat flour has exceeded 16 million tonnes, reflected a minimal gain from the revised export shipments in 2015-16 of 15.9 million tonnes.

Global flour exports have been on an upward trend since the recent trade low of 12.65 million tonnes was reached in 2012-13. The new estimate, reflecting flour exports in terms of wheat ground, was equal to nearly 260 million cwts of flour. 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, near the start of the 21st century, that first saw flour exports above 10 million tonnes.

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 16.62 million tonnes, against 16.2 million in the preceding season.

Exporter gains in expanding flour trade were widely scattered among nations. Turkey, which is the leading flour exporter by a wide margin, saw its forecast boosted by 100,000 tonnes to 5.4 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, against 4.94 million tonnes in 2015-16 and 3.531 million in 2014-15. With its trade accounting for 33.5% of the world export total, Turkey’s lead was unprecedented.

Continuing in second place was Kazakhstan, also registering a 100,000-tonne increase, to 3.2 million tonnes. That compares with 3 million in 2015-16 and 2.385 million in 2014-15. Kazakhstan’s share of world exports reached 19.9%, also a new mark for that country mainly delivering flour to neighboring former members of the Soviet Union such as Uzbekistan and also Afghanistan.

The European Union, which comprises 28 member countries, was the only other exporter in the million-tonne category, with expected shipments now at 1 million tonnes. Prior to this outgo, shipments by the E.U. had been near 900,000 tonnes.

The export forecast for Argentina was increased to 850,000 tonnes, a four-year peak, compared with 717,000 in 2015-16 and only 324,000 in 2013-14.

Major flour import increases between the last IGC report and the latest this February included Uzbekistan, Mexico, Brazil and Afghanistan. The latter country ranked at the top of flour importers, expected now to take 2.6 million tonnes of wheat equivalent in 2016-17, up 300,000 from its previous outlook. Its outlook still lagged the 2015-16 inflow of 2.654 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, but were well above the 2014-15 intake of 1.816 million.

Largely as the result of the Kazakhstan increase, flour imports into Far East Asia in 2016-17 were forecast to total 4.57 million tonnes, up 230,000 from the prior number and compared with 4.96 million in 2015-16 and 3.94 million in 2014-15.

Also showing a sizable increase were likely imports into North and Central America, placed at 1.070 million tonnes, up 160,000 from a quarter earlier and compared with 1.030 million in 2015-16. Mexico’s increased imports of 100,000 tonnes, to 300,000, were mainly responsible for the area increase.Imports into South America were newly estimated at 1.040 million tonnes, against 780,000 previously estimated, and also taken in 2015-16. Brazil’s likely imports in the current crop year were boosted by 200,000 tonnes to 700,000, against 460,000 in 2015-16.

Near East Asia was notable for the lack of major revision in its estimated imports. The total was 3.460 million tonnes, down 30,000 from the previous quarterly forecast and compared with 3.290 million in 2015-16.

The flour import forecast for Far East Asia was raised 230,000 tonnes, to 4.57 million tonnes, against 4.86 million in 2015-16. The 300,000-tonne increase for Afghanistan was primarily responsible for this change.

African countries also posted relatively small changes from a quarter earlier. The total of flour imports into Africa was placed at 2.63 million tonnes, up 20,000 from the prior quarter, and compared with 2.85 million in the preceding crop year.   

The largest flour importers in Africa included Sudan, expected to take 800,000 tonnes, followed by Angola at 600,000. Takings of wheat flour by both countries were in line with prior crop years.
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