LONDON, ENGLAND — The annual compilation of national wheat flour production by the International Grains Council (IGC) points to a continuing gradual upward trend, except for Russia and its neighbors in the Commonwealth of Independent States where a downward move persists. While the IGC data for 2013 include output of wheat flour in many major nations, the countries not revealing flour output, such as China, Italy, Australia, Egypt and Nigeria, mean that consequential omissions exist, ruling out any overall assessment of global flour production. 

At the same time, the IGC does make estimates of global and national consumption of wheat for food, which also reflect a rising trend around the world. Total consumption of wheat for food, which relates to flour mill grind, in 2013-14, the latest crop season for which these data have been compiled, totaled 472.6 million tonnes of wheat, the IGC estimated. That is up 2% from 462.2 million in the previous crop year.

According to the IGC analysis, use of wheat for food in China in 2013-14 totaled 88 million tonnes, against 87.5 million in the previous season.  By way of comparison, the U.S. processed 25.5 million tonnes of wheat for food in 2013-14, compared with U.S. flour production in the 2013 calendar year of 19.25 million tonnes. Assuming that China matches the U.S. extraction rate of 75.5%, that country’s flour output would be about 66 million tonnes of flour.

The U.S. flour output, which matches data previously available, may be joined with output in Mexico and Canada to arrive at production of North American mills. The latter in 2013 amounted to 24.81 million tonnes of wheat flour, against 24.46 million in 2012, an increase of 1.4%. Both Canada and the U.S. showed 1% gains in flour output in 2013 from the previous year, while Mexico posted a 3.9% gain to 3.32 million tonnes. North American output in 2013 showed a 5.9% increase over 2000, boosted mainly by expansion of 26% in Mexico.

Major nations in Europe were mostly unchanged between 2012 and 2013 with the notable exception of Germany. Germany’s flour output climbed to 6.4 million tonnes in 2013, up 14.4% from the prior year and 41% more than in 1995 before the Iron Curtain came down. French production in 2013 held steady with the prior year, but dropped 13.6% from 1995.

In Eastern Europe, Poland was the stellar performer in flour output, turning out 3.2 million tonnes in 2013, an increase of 56.8% from the start of the 21st century and 73% more than in 1995.

Russia turned out 9.9 million tonnes of wheat flour in 2013, down 2.9% from 2012 and 4.7% less than in 2000. Its output also recorded a drop of 32.1% from 1995, when Communism ruled the country.
Kazakhstan, a former Russian satellite, and now the world’s largest exporter of flour, is shown as turning out 3.88 million tonnes in 2013. That was off 3.2% from 2012, but up 130.3% from 2000. The latest IGC forecast of Kazakhstan’s flour exports in 2014-15 was near 2.5 million tonnes in wheat equivalent.

Ukraine, involved in a conflict with Russia, produced 2.54 million tonnes of flour in 2013, off 4% from 2012.

Another country where exports are important to the milling business is Turkey, milling 8.33 million tonnes of wheat flour in 2013. That was up 8.3% from the prior year, but fell 28% short of 2000.

For the first time in more than a decade, the IGC flour production report included output for Saudi Arabia. This country’s mills in 2013 turned out 2.55 million tonnes of wheat flour, compared with 2.44 million in 2012. It is the only country in the Middle East for which current output was reported.

Countries in Asia were among the main nations showing considerable increases, most notably in Indonesia. The latter nation turned out 5.15 million tonnes of wheat flour in 2013, up 10.5% from 2012 and 83.3% more than in 2000. This was also the first time that Indonesia mills turned out more flour than produced in Japan, where the 2013 output was 4.86 million tonnes, off 0.3% from 2012 and 5.6% more than in 2000.

The only country in North Africa for which flour output is reported is Tunisia, turning out 863,000 tonnes. The leading sub-Saharan producer reported was South Africa, milling 2.41 million tonnes of flour, steady with the previous year. The only other major producer for which data are reported was Sudan, at 1.69 million tonnes, up 16.8% from 2012.

South American production of wheat flour was dominated by Brazil, milling a total of 8.45 million tonnes in 2013, up 3.6% from 2012 and 24.6% more than in 2000. Mills in Argentina turned out 3.76 million tonnes, off 23.3% from the prior year due to a poor quality crop, but 44% more than in 2000. Chile milled 1.38 million tonnes of flour, in line with prior years.

In compiling the flour production reports, the IGC emphasizes that the figures reflect flour output, not grind of wheat. The figures, the council said, “are based on information supplied by member and non-member countries.” It added that the figures for most countries cover only commercial output in large mills. “They may, therefore, considerably underestimate total flour production, especially in developing nations,” the IGC noted.