An upward revision of 1 million tonnes in estimated world exports of wheat flour in 2008-09 resulted in a new record trade total for the year ended June 30. According to data issued in late July by the International Grains Council (IGC), world flour exports in 2008-09 reached a new peak of 11,975,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent, compared with the end of April estimate of 10,955,000.
At the new total, world flour exports in 2008-09 were 1% above the previous peak of 11,842,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent in 2007-08. Prior to the latter mark being reached, the all-time high in world flour exports was 11,186,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent in 1996-97.
While registering only minimal change from the previous year, the revised record total for 2008-09 was well ahead of earlier volumes of flour shipments. The outgo was 12% ahead of global flour exports of 10,694,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent in 2006-07 and was 45% greater than the current decade’s low of 8,231,000 in 2001-02. The current pace of shipments was more than double the rate of global flour exporting in the late 1970s.
IGC data on global flour exports exclude durum semolina.
Adding an estimated 250,000 tonnes of durum semolina exported in 2008-09 brings the aggregate to 12,225,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, against 12,037,000 in the prior year when shipments of durum semolina were 194,000.
World flour exports totaling 12 million tonnes are equal to about 192 million cwts of wheat flour.
KAZAKHSTAN EXPORTS SURGE
The IGC said that a surge in exports from Kazakhstan, as well as gains for the European Union (E.U.) and Turkey, accounted for the 1-million-tonne increase in global flour shipments over the estimate in April. According to the Council’s latest Grain Market Report, Kazakhstan exported 2.6 million tonnes in wheat equivalent in 2008-09, which was 750,000 tonnes more than estimated several months earlier. The outgo also was a peak for the country that once was part of the Soviet Union and is now the leading exporter in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The 2008-09 exports soared 27% over 2,054,000 shipped in 2007-08 and were nearly the same as in 2006-07. It was in the latter year that Kazakhstan replaced Turkey as the world’s leading flour exporter.
Kazakhstan primarily ships flour to neighboring countries, notably Uzbekistan, which in 2008-09 took 1,225,000 tonnes, up 325,000 from the prior estimate. That country imported 919,000 in 2007-08. Its takings in 2008-09 ranked it as the world’s leading flour importer, surpassing Brazil and Libya, which with imports slightly above 1 million tonnes led 2007-08 imports. Second place in flour importing in 2008-09 went to Afghanistan, another Kazakhstan customer, with takings of 1.1 million tonnes in wheat equivalent, up 300,000 from the earlier forecast, and up 19% from 922,000 tonnes in 2007-08.
The IGC said that shipments from Russia, mainly destined for other CIS countries as well as Afghanistan and Mongolia, totaled 665,000 tonnes, up from 548,000 in 2007-08 and 322,000 in 2006-07.
Turkey ranked second as a global flour exporter in 2008-09, shipping 2 million tonnes, which were 250,000 above the April estimate. That outgo was 32% ahead of its shipments of 1,520,000 tonnes in 2007-08. Turkey was the leading flour exporter earlier, including its outgo of 2,469,000 tonnes in 2004-05. Turkey’s leading flour customer has been Iraq, which imported 840,000 tonnes of flour in wheat equivalent in 2008-09, against 602,000 in 2007-08. As recently as 2005-06, Iraq was the largest flour importer, taking 1,490,000 tonnes.
Kazakhstan and Turkey accounted for 22% and 17%, respectively, of global flour exports in 2008-09.
The third-ranking exporter, with a 12% global market share, was the E.U., shipping 1,450,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, up 100,000 from the earlier estimate. This was the first year that E.U. flour exports have increased after a prolonged period of annual reductions. E.U. flour shipments in 2008-09 were estimated by the IGC at 1,450,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent, against 1,227,000 in the previous year and 1,314,000 in 2006-07. Through most of the 1980s and 1990s, the E.U. was the world’s leading flour exporter by a sizable margin, such as shipments of 4,381,000 tonnes in 1981-82, which accounted for 58% of global exports.
UZBEKISTAN IS TOP IMPORTER
While Uzbekistan and Afghanistan were the only two import flour markets taking more than 1 million tonnes, Libya was closely behind, with imports of 900,000 tonnes, compared with 1,060,000 in 2007-08.
Brazil’s imports, primarily from Argentina, fell in 2008-09 to 850,000 tonnes, against 1,078,000 in 2007-08. At the same time, Argentina once again ranked as the fourth-leading flour exporter with estimated shipments in 2008-09 of 1.2 million tonnes, contrasted with its record outgo of 1,528,000 in 2007-08. Prior to the surge in Brazil’s takings, Argentina historically exported less than 1 million tonnes of flour in wheat equivalent. The government of Argentina utilized the global wheat price gyrations in 2007 and 2008 to push exports of flour instead of wheat.
Sub-Sahara Africa in 2008-09 increased its flour imports to 1,334,000 tonnes, against 1,258,000 in the previous year.
Indonesia maintained its pace of flour imports, taking 720,000 tonnes, against 726,000 in 2007-08.
In contrast with the higher estimates of flour exports by leading shippers, the IGC reduced the likely outgo for the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan. The U.S. outgo in 2008-09 was newly estimated at 350,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent (about 5.6 million cwts), down 100,000 from the April estimate and 27% less than the 2007-08 exports of 479,000.
Canadian exports were placed at 225,000 tonnes, against 284,000 in the prior season.
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