WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Total wheat consumption in Ghana is expected to continue its steady climb this year, increasing to 590,000 tonnes in 2017-18, up from 580,000 in 2016-17 and 570,000 tonnes in 2015-16, according to a Feb. 2 Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“Wheat consumption has been relatively stable for several years due to the high cost of hard wheat, which is the preference of the Ghanaian consumer,” the USDA noted in the report. “However, consumption remains on a slight upward trajectory due to urbanization and changing dietary habits.”

According to the USDA, per capita consumption of wheat in Ghana is estimated at about 20 kg/year, with about 80% of wheat flour used for bread making and 20% used for cakes and other pastries. The Ghanaian consumer prefers hard wheat flour that produces a “high-topped loaf and fluffy bread,” the USDA said.

Ghana is served by five major wheat milling companies that have total installed capacity of about 1,600 tonnes per day and operate at about 80% of capacity.

Wheat imports in Ghana in 2017-18 are forecast at 700,000 tonnes, up from 664,000 tonnes in 2016-17 and 572,000 tonnes in 2015-16, according to the USDA. The agency noted that imports from the United States in 2016-17 rebounded to their highest level in three years at more than 60,000 tonnes. Canada is the largest importer to Ghana, accounting for more than half of the country’s intake. Other major suppliers of wheat to Ghana include Russia and the European Union, the USDA said.

“Industry sources indicate that the milling industry faces competition from soft flour imported from Turkey by the biscuit factories,” the USDA said. “Some imported soft flour meant for biscuit factories and transit flour (Burkina Faso) also end up in the Ghana local market and has impacted negatively on sales of the millers. It is estimated that over 100,000 tonnes of soft wheat flour is imported by the biscuit factories.”