World flour trade seen to be second largest ever
BakingBusiness.com, March 13, 2012
by Morton Sosland

LONDON — Another increase by the International Grains Council in its forecast of world trade in wheat flour in 2011-12 brought the total to the second largest of record. The I,.G.C. placed the likely wheat flour trade in the current crop season at 12,410,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent, up 160,000 from its prior forecast and an increase of 5% over the 2010-11 aggregate of 11,950,000. The prospective volume for 2011-12 was exceeded only once before, by the all-time record flour shipments of 12,686,000 tonnes in 2009-10.

I.G.C. wheat flour export data do not include durum semolina, which recently has been at an annual pace of around 200,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent.

The current export total related to nearly 200 million cwts in terms of wheat flour.

Export gains from the previous I.G.C. outlook mainly were chalked up by Kazakhstan, the former member of the Soviet Union that has ranked as the leading exporter of flour in recent years, and by the European Union.

Kazakhstan had its flour export forecast boosted to 3,200,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent mainly as a result of increased imports by its neighboring members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. At the current forecast, Kazakhstan’s exports would be up 28% from 2,500,000 in 2010-11 but lagged its record clearances of 3,514,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent in 2009-10. At this season’s pace, Kazakhstan accounted for 26% of world flour trade, against 21% in the preceding crop year.

The I.G.C. raised its forecast of flour exports from the European Union by 100,000 tonnes to 1,300,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent. This total also would be up 13% from E.U. shipments of 1,150,000 tonnes in 2009-10, which was the smallest export total by the bloc in a long number of years. Indeed, it marked a reversal in the long-time downward trend of E.U. flour exports. At the start of the current century, in 2000-01, the E.U. shipped 3,298,000 tonnes of flour exports, which represented 39% of the global total. This crop year, its share would be 10.5%.

According to the I.G.C., the uptick in the outlook for E.U. shipments largely came about as a result of larger clearances to a number of sub-Saharan African countries.

According to the I.G.C. estimates, Turkey will continue as the world’s second largest flour exporter, with shipments projected at 2,500,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, compared with 2,400,000 in the previous season and the recent high of 2,602,000 in 2009-10. The only other country likely to export more than 1 million tonnes of flour in wheat equivalent would be Argentina, with its outgo forecast at 1,300,000 tonnes, practically the same as in each of the three preceding seasons. Brazil, which was projected to import 960,000 tonnes of flour in 2011-12, was the principal customer for Argentina.

Among other flour exporting countries, the largest change from the prior year was the drop in prospective Russian exports, to 400,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent, compared with 570,000 in 2010-11. U.S. flour exports were forecast at 450,000 tonnes, against 405,000 in the preceding season and the recent peak of 545,000 in 2009-10. China and Pakistan were forecast to ship 400,000 tonnes each in 2011-12. China’s shipments will show little change, while Pakistan’s export projection was sharply below the 900,000 tonnes of wheat flour its exported in 2010-11.

Four countries were expected to import more than 1 million tonnes each of wheat flour in wheat equivalent in the 2011-12 season. Uzbekistan was projected to continue its role as the world’s leading flour importer, with its takings projected at 1,400,000 tonnes, the same as in the two prior seasons.
Afghanistan will once again be in second place, with takings of 1,300,000 tonnes. Iraq was seen as taking 1,200,000 tonnes this season, up 20% from 2010-11. The peak Iraqi imports were 1,490,000 in 2005-06. Prior to the U.S. invasion, Iraq was not an importer of flour.

In fourth rank as a flour importer was Indonesia, forecast to take 1,100,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent this season, the same as in the prior crop year. Indonesia, once one of the world’s largest flour importers until its domestic milling industry was launched, in the 1970s and 1980s, has resumed flour takings in recent years, and the current pace was the heaviest in decades.