LONDON, ENGLAND — The latest world wheat flour trade forecast from the International Grains Council (IGC) shows a slight increase for the 2020-21 season from the previous report and a 5% increase year on year, but it comes with a caveat.

“There is still only limited data available for traded volumes in 2020-21, with most information only covering the first two months of the season, and the impact on demand patterns from COVID-19 and difficult economic conditions remain unclear,” the IGC said.

The Council projects global flour trade to reach 15.1 million tonnes (wheat equivalent), up from 15 million in the first-quarter projection and 14.4 million in 2019-20.

Turkey is forecast to maintain its traditional spot as the No. 1 exporter at 4.9 million tonnes, unchanged from the previous forecast and up from 4.8 million in 2019-20.

Exports from Kazakhstan are trimmed to 2.3 million, up from 2.4 million in the first quarter, but higher than last year’s total of 2.15 million tonnes. The EU is projected to export 600,000 tonnes, down 50,000 tonnes from the previous projection and 26,000 tonnes from its 2019-20 total.

However, several other countries saw a projected increase in their shipments. Russia is projected to export 450,000 tonnes, up 30,000 tonnes from the previous quarter and 14,000 tonnes more than a year ago. Ukraine saw its projected exports jump 50,000 tonnes from the previous report to 470,000 tonnes, unchanged from last year.

Argentina is forecast to be the No. 3 flour exporter in 2020-21 at 900,000 tonnes, up 25,000 tonnes from the first-quarter projection but down from 926,000 the previous year.

The IGC said there are signs that Kazakhstan’s shipments to Afghanistan have accelerated from earlier in the year, bringing Afghanistan’s import total to 2.5 million, which would make it this year’s top flour importer. Last year, Afghanistan imported 1.9 million tonnes of flour.

However, imports by Uzbekistan, which also receives most of its flour from neighboring Kazakhstan, continue at a slow pace at 750,000 tonnes, but still higher than last year’s intake of 550,000 tonnes.

The IGC noted that a good local wheat harvest has reduced Iraq’s flour import needs for 2020-21.

“Based on shipment data to date (mostly of Turkish origin), the forecast is unchanged from before at 2 million tonnes, about 11% less than the five-year average,” the IGC said.

Iraq, which last year imported 1.9 million tonnes, would still rank second in the world in exports if the IGC forecast for 2020-21 is realized.

Yemen is projected to rank third in flour imports at an unchanged 900,000 tonnes, while Brazil is ranked fifth with imports forecast at 500,000 tonnes, up 50,000 tonnes from 2019-20.