World flour exports rebound but still below peak

by Staff
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LONDON — World exports of wheat flour appeared headed for a 6.5% increase in the 2013-14 crop year even though the trade pace was falling short of even more optimistic early season expectations. According to the International Grains Council, which issues periodic reports on global exports of wheat flour, the volume in 2013-14 will reach a total of 12,810,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, compared with 12,020,000 in the previous season.

The 6.5% expansion in global flour trade still left the volume 12% short of the all-time peak of 14,560,000 tonnes shipped during 2011-12. It was not until near the end of the 20th century that world flour exports first exceeded 10 million tonnes.

At the presently indicated total, 2013-14 world flour exports fell short of the earlier forecast for shipments of 13,060,00 tonnes. That drop primarily reflected the I.G.C. opinion that Indonesia, rather than dropping its special tax on imported flour, will decide to allow it to remain in place indefinitely. As a result, the earlier forecast that Indonesia would import 900,000 tonnes of flour in wheat equivalent in 2013-14 was slashed to 300,000 tonnes. That would leave Indonesia flour imports near its takings of 325,000 tonnes in 2012-13, but well below 829,000 in 2011-12.

According to the I.G.C., Indonesia imposed a 20% import tax on wheat flour to replace a 5% levy. The original increase had a fixed term of 200 days but now has been extended for at least two years, “subject to negotiation with key flour suppliers,” the I.G.C. said. As a result, many domestic flour users have switched from using imported flour to domestically milled flour made from imported wheat.

Looking at the expected increase in flour trade for 2013-14 over the prior year, the Council noted a 200,000-tonne increase for Afghanistan. It attributed this to improved supplies from Kazakhstan, which more than offset reduced availability from Pakistan due to a poor wheat harvest. Uzbekistan’s imports were estimated to gain 300,000 tonnes, due to larger offerings from Turkey and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Afghanistan was forecast to be the world’s second-largest flour importer, taking 1.3 million tonnes, against 1,133,000 in the prior year. Uzbekistan maintained its lead in flour importing, estimated to take 1.5 million tonnes of wheat equivalent in 2013-14, compared with 1,280,000 in the prior crop season.

The only other nation projected to import more than 1 million tonnes of wheat flour was Iraq, with its imports forecast at 1.2 million tonnes, compared with 1,287,000 in 2012-13 and 1,359,000 in 2011-12.

Continuing to gain in importance as a flour importer was Brazil, with its imports in 2013-14 forecast at 950,000 tonnes, against 669,000 in the preceding crop year. The Council said Brazil’s takings increased due to a poor quality domestic crop and larger wheat supplies in Argentina.

On a continental basis, Far East Asia once again was ranked as the world’s largest flour importing region. Takings were forecast at 3,170,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, against 2,910,000 in the prior year. Besides Afghanistan, major importers in this region were Hong Kong, taking 360,000 and Indonesia, taking 300,000.

Kazakhstan regained its lead as a flour exporter, forecast to ship 3 million tonnes of wheat equivalent in 2013-14, against 2,190,000 in 2012-13 and 3,653,000 the year before. In second place for the current season was Turkey, expected to ship 2,500,000 tonnes, little changed from 2,567,000 in the preceding year when it ranked first as a global flour exporter.

Other major flour exporting nations in 2013-14 were Argentina, at 1.2 million tonnes, the European Union at 1.1 million, and the United Arab Emirates, at 1 million. Kazakhstan’s share of global flour exports, 23.4%, was near the peak for any exporter in recent years.

Three nations — the United States, China and Russia — were each projected to export 400,000 tonnes of flour in wheat equivalent in 2013-14. Only Russia, up from 133,000 tones the prior year, showed a significant change in its flour export pace.

The I.G.C. does not include shipments of durum semolina in its global flour exports. Durum semolina was expected to account for shipments of 350,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent in 2013-14, unchanged from the preceding year and compared with 360,000 tonnes in 2011-12.

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