LONDON, ENGLAND — Reflecting a slower-than-anticipated start to the 2022-23 marketing year, the International Grains Council (IGC) has trimmed its forecast wheat flour trade by 300,000 tonnes from its last update in July, according to its October Grain Market Review, released on Oct. 20.

The IGC projects 14 million tonnes of flour trade this year, which is 1.1 million tonnes lower than the five-year average and only slightly higher than the most recent low of 13.8 million tonnes in 2020-21. If realized, it would be the second lowest wheat flour trade total since 2013-14, when 13.1 million tonnes were traded.

Linked to tighter envisaged wheat availabilities, purchases by Iraq, the world’s largest flour buyer, are expected to increase, with total arrivals pegged at a five-year high of 2.7 million tonnes (up from 2.2 million last year), unchanged from the previous estimate in July.

A slight rebound in deliveries to Afghanistan also is envisaged in 2022-23, to 1.8 million tonnes, up from 1.7 million in 2021-22. Imports by sub-Saharan Africa may be the lowest in 12 years, forecast at 1.9 million tonnes, down 350,000 tonnes from last year, with local consumers seen switching to alternatives amid potentially elevated prices for wheat-based foods.

Quarterly revisions for import forecasts included a cut for China, where full-year arrivals are now placed at a below-average 200,000 tonnes, but still above the prior season’s lowly level of 100,000.

“While the downgrade in part reflects relatively slow purchases to date amid local COVID-19 related measures, the analysis is complicated by the absence of official trade statistics for Russia, typically a major supplier of flour to that country,” the IGC said.

Projected purchases by some buyers in sub-Saharan Africa also were trimmed from the previous estimate, the largest cut being for Angola, to 300,000 tonnes, seen broadly matching the season before.

“With the bulk of supplies typically sourced from Turkey, the latest available export statistics for the latter indicate a sharp year-over-year drop in shipments to Angola in July 2022,” the IGC said.

Import numbers also were reduced slightly for Eritrea and Somalia on smaller projected deliveries by Egypt, as well as for Bolivia, where flour importers are almost entirely reliant on supplies from Argentina, the IGC said.

While Turkey is expected to remain by far the largest exporter of wheat flour in 2022-23, the IGC’s projection for that country was scaled back slightly on a generally sluggish start to the export season. July shipments of around 300,000 tonnes were down by around 20% year-over-year, mostly destined for Near East Asia, notably Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Still, at 5 million tonnes, the full-year forecast (including processed secondary trade) was seen slightly above the recent average and some 600,000 tonnes higher year-over-year, according to the IGC.

Reflecting tightening supply outlooks, export projections for Argentina and the United States also have been lowered during the past quarter, to 500,000 and 300,000 tonnes, respectively.

Amid a smaller domestic outturn, coupled with high input and energy costs for processing, shipments by the EU are expected to be moderately lower year-over-year, at 500,000 tonnes, down slightly from the July update.

Following reports of government export restrictions in August amid rising domestic prices, projected flour shipments by India have been lowered to 400,000 tonnes, well short of last year’s peak of 1.1 million. However, with the more recent moves to allow exports of flour processed from imported grain in the Special Economic Zone, shipments in the months ahead may exceed current expectations, the IGC said.