LONDON, ENGLAND — With significantly lower import totals projected to occur in Africa and South America, the International Grains Council (IGC) forecasts global wheat flour trade in marketing year 2022-23 to match the recent low of 13.8 million tonnes (wheat equivalent) recorded in 2020-21 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If realized, it would be 300,000 tonnes lower than the previous year and 200,000 below the IGC’s estimate in October.

The last time a lower global flour trade total was recorded was 2013-14, when 13.2 million tonnes were traded.

The IGC report, released on Jan. 12, explained the situation in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Amid difficult economic conditions and with elevated prices for wheat-based products seen hampering consumer demand, updated trade statistics showed slower-than-anticipated deliveries to (sub-Saharan Africa) through October-November last year, with downward adjustments incorporated for Angola, Benin, and Ghana,” the IGC said.

At 1.8 million tonnes, projected aggregate deliveries to the region would be the lowest in at least 12 years, the IGC said.

In South America, the region’s largest flour supplier, Argentina, has been plagued by severe drought that has damaged the wheat crop and affected flour exports. The IGC forecasts Argentina exports in 2022-23 to decline to 400,000 tonnes, down from 741,000 last year.

“The latest available trade data indicate that 2022-23 imports by Bolivia and Brazil may fall short of last year’s levels, even though Brazil has been complementing Argentine supplies with purchases from other neighboring countries — namely Paraguay and Uruguay — similar to previous years,” the IGC said. “Incorporating the latest revisions, deliveries to Bolivia and Brazil are pegged at their lowest in eight and nine years, respectively.”

Iraq is forecast to be the largest flour importer in 2022-23 at 2.6 million tonnes, up from 2.1 million a year ago. However, the IGC noted that the volume is “likely to fall short of historical highs, given the government’s reported efforts to facilitate local milling operations.”

Afghanistan is expected to be the second largest flour importer this year, with 1.8 million tonnes, up from 1.7 million in 2021-22.

Turkey is once again projected to be the world’s largest flour exporter with this year’s total pegged at 4.9 million tonnes, up slightly from the October forecast and up more than 500,000 tonnes from last year.

Second-ranked exporter Kazakhstan is forecast to ship 2.4 million tonnes in 2022-23, unchanged from the October estimate and up 90,000 tonnes from the previous year.