LONDON, ENGLAND — World wheat flour trade in 2018-19 dropped 1 million tonnes from the previous quarter’s estimate and is now 4% lower than last year, according to the International Grains Council (IGC).

Trade is now estimated at 16.1 million tonnes, down from 17.1 million tonnes in November 2018 and also down from 16.8 million tonnes for 2017-18.

“Reported trade now broadly covers the first six months of the season and overall volumes are lagging the year-earlier pace,” the IGC said in its Feb. 21 Grain Market Report.

Imports were lower this quarter in 24 countries for which IGC provides data and increased in only one nation, North Korea. Its imports were revised upward 100,000 tonnes, to 200,000 tonnes.

Regionally, Asia and the Middle East saw some of the largest drops from the previous quarter. Afghanistan was down 200,000 tonnes, to 2.9 million, and Iraq dropped 100,000 tonnes, to 2.75 million. Yemen was down 80,000, to 250,000 tonnes, and Syria dropped 50,000, to 500,000 tonnes.

In Asia, China was down 50,000 tonnes, to 400,000 tonnes; Indonesia also dropped by 50,000, to a total of 50,000 tonnes; South Korea was down 25,000, to a total of 25,000 tonnes; and the Philippines dropped 30,000, to 150,000 tonnes.

Africa also experienced some significant decreases. Angola dropped 70,000 tonnes, to 760,000 tonnes; Somalia was down 40,000, to 300,000 tonnes; and Sudan decreased 40,000, to 580,000 tonnes.

For exports, Turkey maintained its spot as the largest exporter, with shipments matching the season before, the IGC said. Its forecast remained unchanged at 5 million tonnes.

“Turkey’s exports to Near East Asia (about 70% of the total) were 6% ahead year-over-year; smaller volumes than last season to Iraq (-6%), were outweighed by increases to Syria and Yemen,” the IGC said.

Not as many revisions were made in exports. The most significant were in Kazakhstan, which was down 200,000 tonnes, to 3.2 million tonnes and Iran, which was down 250,000 tonnes, to 500,000 tonnes.

“Dispatches by Kazakhstan are running about 6% behind the year before, mainly because of reductions to Afghanistan and Uzbekistan,” the IGC said.

Other changes in exports from the previous quarter included Argentina, which dropped 150,000 tonnes, to 900,000 tonnes, and the E.U.-28, which was down 50,000, to 700,000 tonnes.

“Flour shipments by Argentina are predominantly to Brazil and Bolivia; up to end-December, total exports were about one-fifth down year-over-year,” the IGC said. “In the first half of the season, exports by the E.U. were approximately one-third below the year before, mainly because of a slowdown to sub-Saharan Africa.”