In its August quarterly update on global trade in wheat flour, the International Grains Council (IGC) left the total in prospect for 2015-16 unchanged, but made several major changes in export and import prospects for specific nations. For the total export prospect, the IGC placed the total for the current season at 13,500,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, the same as the initial forecast issued in May.

While this season’s prospective world flour trade would be down from 13,770,000 tonnes shipped in the prior season, it would exceed the outgo of 13,130,000 in 2013-14 and 12,650,000 in 2012-13. The record in world flour exports was 14,560,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent in 2011-12.

While holding its forecast of world flour exports in 2015-16 unchanged from a quarter earlier, the new IGC estimate included changes for individual countries. The most dramatic of those was in Turkey’s exports, which affirmed it as the top flour exporting nation for a number of years. Indeed, the council’s projection for Turkey’s exports in 2014-15 was boosted by 1 million tonnes to a level that represented 25.6% of global flour shipments. The revised forecast of Turkey’s exports in 2015-16 was up 900,000 tonnes from the quarter earlier to a total equal to 26.3%.

The IGC does not include exports of durum semolina in global flour trade, but makes a separate estimate for this volume. For 2015-16, durum semolina exports were projected to reach 350,000 tonnes, against 360,000 in 2014-15 and 350,000 in 2013-14. Adding this total to the wheat flour shipments produces an aggregate of 13,850,000 tonnes in 2015-16, compared with 14,130,000 in 2014-15.

As previously noted, the revised export estimates for Turkey, in the current season and earlier, show that country dominating global flour trade. At one time, Kazakhstan competed with Turkey for this leadership, but the revised figures show Turkey leading the world in every recent year except 2011-12 when world volume reached the all-time record of 14,560,000 tonnes (14,950,000 including durum semolina). In the latter year, Kazakhstan led with shipments of 3,652,000 tonnes, followed by Turkey at 3,013,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent.

In the current season, Turkey’s flour shipments forecast at 3,600,000 tonnes, compared with Kazakhstan at 2,800,000 tonnes, with respective shares of 26.3% and 20.7%. Thus, the two countries come within range of accounting for half of global flour trade.

Kazakhstan’s prospective export gain of 17%, to 2,800,000 tonnes, reflected its larger local wheat crop of better quality than the year before.

In commenting on the 2% decrease in global flour trade it now forecasts, the IGC said that demand in all regions was likely to be in line with the prior year. It pointed out that “disruptions to local supply chains caused by armed conflicts could underpin flour imports in parts of Near East Asia, particularly in Iraq and Syria.”

It also noted that imports into sub-Sahara Africa, estimated at 2,250,000 tonnes, are supported at a high level by low prices and growing demand for wheat-based foods.

Iraq, Afghanistan leading importers

Iraq, expected to take 1,500,000 tonnes, and Afghanistan, forecast at 1,400,000, were shown as the leading world importers of wheat flour in 2015-16. The only other importing country expected to take more than a million tonnes was Uzbekistan, with imports forecast at 1,200,000.

In the Western Hemisphere, Brazil continued as the largest importer, with takings this season projected at 600,000 tonnes, compared with 550,000 in the prior season. U.S. imports were forecast at 250,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, against the record of 322,000 in 2014-15. U.S. exports in 2015-16 were forecast at 350,000 tonnes, down from 385,000 in 2014-15.

Angola continued as Africa’s leading importer of wheat flour, with its takings this season forecast at 640,000 tonnes, compared with 627,000 in 2014-15.

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