U.S. flour exports sink to 60-year low in 2002

by Suzi Fraser
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WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. For the first time since the middle of World War II, when German and Japanese submarines interfered with shipping, exports of flour from the United States in 2002 dropped below 10 million cwts (453,600 tonnes in terms of flour).

Based on monthly data provided by the Census Bureau, U.S. flour exports in the past calendar year totaled 9,246,000 cwts (419,400 tonnes), the smallest since exports of only 8,599,000 (390,000 tonnes) in 1942, in the midst of the last global conflict.

At the indicated level, 2002 flour exports fell 12% from the prior year’s small outgo of 10,462,000 cwts (474,550 tonnes). This was the third successive annual reduction from the outgo of 17,752,000 cwts (805,217 tonnes) in 1999.

It contrasts with the peak annual outgo during the 1990s, of 23,566,000 cwts (1,068,936 tonnes) in 1995. In the 1980s, annual flour exports topped out in 1983, when shipments reached 37,315,000 cwts (1,692,580 tonnes) as the result of the "shot across the bow" of the European Union ‘fired’ in that one year by the Reagan administration in protest of E.U. flour export subsidies.

Not included in these shipments are flour exports in the form of products, such as pasta, cookies and crackers and snacks. The product share has been on the rise in recent years, totaling around 1.7 million cwts (75,683 tonnes), whereas prior to the 1980s, the flour total exported in the form of products was inconsequential.

For the first time in memory, no single flour market provided an export outlet for as much as 1 million cwts in the 2002 calendar year.