Forecast holds for world flour trade

by Morton Sosland
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LONDON — World exports of wheat flour in 2009-10 were once again forecast at a record 12.6 million tonnes of wheat equivalent in an updated report just issued by the International Grains Council. While the trade total was unchanged from the previous forecast of last February, significant revisions were made for both exporting and importing countries.

Among the significant changes was an upward revision in prospective U.S. flour exports in 2009-10, now placed at 450,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, compared with 300,000 as the previous forecast. The I.G.C. said the increase reflected “larger-than-expected shipments, particularly to Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Kenya.”

At 450,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, equal to 7.2 million cwts of flour, U.S. exports compared with 314,000 in 2008-09 and would be the largest since 479,000 were shipped in 2007-08. While up substantially from the previous low point, U.S. flour exports still lagged the major flour exporters by a major degree.

World flour exports of 12.6 million tonnes of wheat equivalent would be up 3% from 12,256,000 in 2008-09 and were 6% more than 11,849,000 tonnes exported in 2007-08. This year’s trade aggregate would be up 18% from 10,694,000 in 2006-07. Three straight crop years of increases brought the new record in global flour shipments.

Along with the 125,000-tonne increase in prospective U.S. flour exports in 2009-10, gains of 200,000 tonnes each were forecast for exports by Argentina and Turkey. Most of Argentine flour shipments head for neighboring Brazil and Turkey’s mills have continued to supply Iraq.

Among major decreases in prospective exports were 150,000 tonnes for Russia and 100,000 for Ukraine and the European Union.

Kazakhstan’s rank as the world’s leading flour exporting country was maintained, with shipments once again forecast at 3 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, compared with 2,733,000 in 2008-09 and 2,054,000 in 2007-08. The latter was the first year in which this one-time member of the Former Soviet Union became the world’s leading flour exporter.

Neighboring Uzbekistan provided the principal outlet for Kazakhstan flour exports, the total of that nation’s imports forecast by the I.G.C. at 1.4 million tonnes of wheat equivalent. Such imports were up 100,000 from the prior projection and compare with 1,222,000 tonnes in 2008-09 and 919,000 in 2007-08.
Ranking second as flour exporting nation was Turkey, with its outgo now placed at 2.5 million tonnes of wheat equivalent, compared with 2,161,000 in 2008-09. Turkey’s exports peaked in 2005-06 with an outgo of 2,649,000 tonnes.

The European Union and Argentina are tied for third place in flour exporting, with the outgo for each forecast at 1.3 million tonnes of wheat equivalent. The Argentine outgo would be near the same as in the prior crop year, while E.U. shipments at this level would be down 12% from 1,482,000 tonnes shipped in 2008-09.

When it comes to import destinations for global wheat flour, Afghanistan once again was the leading market. According to the I.G.C., this country’s imports in 2009-10 will reach 1.6 million tonnes, against 1,409,000 in the prior season and 922,000 in 2007-08.

Uzbekistan held second place as a flour export destination, accounting for 1.4 million tonnes, against 1,222,000 in 2008-09. Iraq, forecast to import 1.1 million tonnes in 2009-10, was in third place, with its taking practically the same as in 2008-09.

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