Food use of wheat registers pickup in growth pace

by Josh Sosland
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New world records this 2014-15 crop year in world wheat production, consumption and export trade, as confirmed by the International Grains Council, are most often attributed to a combination of favorable weather and price incentives due to prior strong markets. It isn’t often that analysts looking at forces driving the global wheat crop to a new mark of 709 million tonnes and exports for the first time exceeding 150 million tonnes attribute this striking performance to upward trends in global demand, especially for food.

That omission reflects in part a relatively new development in global wheat — demand expanding primarily in countries that rely importantly on imports because their domestic production is inadequate, often due to geography that does not favor wheat. The I.G.C. places 2014-15 food use at 478 million tonnes, up 12 million from 2013-14. The countries of Asia and Africa account for most of that gain, which is one of the largest annual changes ever registered. In turn, Far East Asia accounted for more than half of the increase in global trade in wheat, followed by Near East Asia and sub-Sahara Africa.

Rising food use of wheat, in most of the developing world well ahead of the hardly measureable upward pace in prior years, accounts for highly positive trends in global grain-based foods. Yet, in watching this shift unfold, it is important to recognize the way rising food use, as compared with highly variable feed use, means a new demand force in supply-demand estimates.
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