LONDON, ENGLAND — World trade in wheat flour in 2012-13 is likely to fall 11% from the record pace of the prior year, largely as a result of wheat crop shortfalls in leading Central European flour exporting nations, according to the latest calculations of the International Grains Council (IGC).

The latest forecast of current year trade in wheat flour from the IGC pointed to a volume of 12,870,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, compared with the history-making peak of 14,580,000 tonnes in the 2011-12 global crop season.

Global flour export trade has been above 12 million tonnes in wheat equivalent every crop year since 2008-09 when it first reached this record-breaking level. The 2011-12 season was the record-setting exception when the outgo not only surpassed 12 million, but passed 14 million tonnes. Actually, the peak outgo now recorded for 2011-12 was at least 1 million tonnes larger than prior estimates “to take account of unreported processed secondary trade from a number of countries, including the Dominican Republic, Nigeria and Turkey,” the IGC revealed. No further explanation is included, Secondary trade normally includes flour milled and exported from one of these countries milled from wheat imported for that specific purpose.

In addition to the upward revision in 2011-12 world flour exports, the council reduced its estimate of flour exports in the current season. A downward change of about 500,000 tonnes reflected mainly cutbacks in wheat production in key milling nations, especially Kazakhstan, which continues as the world’s leading flour shipping nation, albeit at a reduced rate. The forecast of the latter’s shipments in 2012-13 season have been reduced to a prospective 2.8 million tonnes of grain equivalent, contrasted with the  peak of more than 3.6 million tonnes in 2011-12. The latter, equal to more than 50 million hundredweights of flour equivalent, represented a near record total of flour exports in a crop year by a single nation.

Kazakhstan’s position as the largest flour exporter was being challenged in the 2012-13 season by Turkey, which has increasingly sought a major position in flour export trade. The latest forecast of Turkey’s flour exports in 2012-13 has been put at 2.8 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, which is the same as the latest projection for Kazakhstan. The council emphasized that demand for flour shipments from Turkey were “underpinned by limited wheat availabilities in other exporters.”

Relatively small changes were indicated for the current season in import demand from early season indications. A reduction of 100,000 tonnes was made in Afghanistan’s flour import needs, “due to lower import needs after a better domestic harvest,”   the council said.  At 1 million tonnes, Afghanistan continues to rank among the top flour importing nations. Another high-ranker, Indonesia, at 900,000 for 2012-13, saw a reduction due to a 20% import tariff imposed in December.

Iraq regained a leading flour import position with an increase of 200,000 tonnes in its likely 2012-13 takings to 1.2 million tonnes. The IGC attributed this rise to “recent higher-than-expected purchases.”

Among the recent leading flour import nations, the role of Uzbekistan as the world’s leading importer of wheat flour in most recent crop years stands out. For 2012-13, the IGC projected this Central Europe country’s imports at 1.5 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, or around 20 million hundredweights in terms of flour. That was down 22% from its recent peak imports of 1,939,000 tonnes in 2011-12. With the latter imports equal to just about a full hundredweight of flour per population member, Uzbekistan has a unique role in this trade, exceeding the pace of any other nation.

Uzbekistan itself plays a unique role among the nations of the world, considered by many to be one of the most repressive nations in the world. Ever since its separation from the Former Soviet Union in 1951 with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the country has been under the tight rein of Ismal Karimov who has benefited from the nation’s minerals reserves while refusing to open the government to even minimal democracy. At the same time, he has been cooperative with the U. S. and other western nations in providing access to NATO military efforts in Afghanistan and other parts of Central Europe.