Global flour trade to rebound slightly
April 24, 2014
by Morton I. Sosland
A slight rebound has been forecast for world trade in wheat flour in the 2013-14 crop season by the International Grains Council (IGC). The total of global flour exports in the current crop year was placed at 12,619,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, compared with 12,480,000 tonnes in the prior season. At the same time, the current pace lagged well behind the record of 14,560,000 tonnes in 2011-12 and was slightly behind 12,630,000 in 2010-11.
The expected gain of 1% in world flour trade in the current season lagged the IGC forecast that global trade in wheat and flour will rise 4% to 146.5 million tonnes, a new record.
Primarily accounting for the recovery of flour export trade was a surge in shipments from Kazakhstan, to a total of 3 million tonnes, compared with 2,356,000 in 2012-13. That restored Kazakhstan to its leading position as a global flour exporter, even though its outgo in the current crop year fell behind the 3,652,000 tonnes it shipped in 2011-12. Improved availability of milling wheat was credited with spurring Kazakhstan’s flour exports in the present season, even though Indonesia, a major flour importer, continued its import tariff means to check takings.
Uzbekistan remains top importer
Both Uzbekistan and Afghanistan increased flour imports in response to expanded offerings from Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan retained its role as the world’s largest flour importer, expected to take 1.4 million tonnes, compared with 1,363,000 in 2012-13 and 1,939,000 in 2011-12. Afghanistan’s flour imports were forecast to reach 1.3 million tonnes in wheat equivalent, compared with 1,169,000 in 2012-13.
Another ranking destination was Iraq, where imports were forecast at 1,250,000 tonnes, against 1,287,000 in 2012-13. Iraq’s imports largely originate in Turkey, the second-ranking global flour exporter, with shipments this year projected at 2.8 million tonnes, against 2,567,000 in the preceding crop year. Turkey’s pace benefited from improved demand from Syria and what the IGC said was “a healthy pace of purchasing from various Near East and sub-Saharan African countries.”
Syria’s import flour demand was described as strong at 300,000 tonnes, the IGC said, “given reduced domestic milling capacity, officially estimated to have fallen over 60% owing to difficulties with transport and energy-related challenges.”
The forecast for Indonesia’s flour imports in 2013-14 was 300,000 tonnes, against 352,000 in the previous crop year and 829,000 and 1,062,000 in two preceding seasons. That sharp drop stemmed from the imposition of a 20% tax on imports of wheat flour starting in December 2012 and set to remain in place “until further notice,” the Grains Council said.
In the quarterly update on flour trade, the IGC cut prospective Argentine exports of wheat flour in 2013-14 to 200,000 tonnes, compared with its previous forecast of 1 million. Argentina exported 890,000 tonnes of flour in 2012-13 and 1,239,000 in 2011-12. The drop in Argentine shipments stemmed from government export limits due to reluctant selling by farmers to millers.
In line with this situation, Brazil’s likely flour imports fell to 300,000 tonnes, compared with 659,000 in 2012-13 and 903,000 in 2011-12.
“Lower flour imports from Argentina are expected to be compensated by a larger and better quality local wheat crop and grain imports from other origins, such as the U.S.,” the IGC explained.
Other leading flour exporters in 2013-14 were the European Union, at 1.1 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, compared with 967,000 in the preceding crop year, and the United Arab Emirates, shipping 1 million tonnes in each of the past two seasons.