Another small increase seen for world flour exports

by Morton Sosland
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LONDON — For the third crop year in a row world trade in wheat flour in 2015-16 was forecast by the International Grains Council to post a slight gain over the previous season. The initial I.G.C. forecast for the year just getting under way was 13,500,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent, compared with 13,310,000 in 2014-15, 13,130,000 tonnes in 2013-14 and 12,650,000 tonnes in 2012-13.

The latter year was a recent low point in global flour trade, and it followed 2011-12 when the shipment total reached the all-time record of 14,560,000 tonnes. The latter, equal to about 230 million cwts of wheat flour, compared with the forecast for 2015-16 equal to about 215 million cwts of flour.

Once again placed in the lead of global flour exporting this new crop year were two countries each accounting for about 19% of world trade. Kazakhstan has a slight edge in the initial forecast for 2015-16, with its outgo in the new season projected at 2,750,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, against 2,500,000 in 2014-15 and 2,762,000 in 2013-14. The new forecast for Turkey was 2,650,000 tonnes, against 2,520,000 in 2014-15 and 3,353,000 in 2013-14.

Standing out in export flour trade was the emergence of Iran as a major shipper. Its likely clearances for 2015-16 were raised to 950,000 tonnes, contrasted with 800,000 shipped in the preceding season. Prior to 2014-15, Iran flour exports were usually less than 100,000 tonnes. The I.G.C. noted that Iran flour exports benefited from proximity to major import markets like Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Iraq and Syria.

In discussing the small world trade gain in prospect for 2015-16, the I.G.C. cited the effect of smaller domestic wheat harvests in several major flour importing nations. The crop prospect particularly affected flour imports by Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq imports in 2015-16 were forecast at 1,550,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, against 1,450,000 imported in 2014-15 and 1,477,000 in 2013-14. Its wheat imports also were rising.

Imports of flour by Afghanistan were placed at 1,350,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, compared with 1,300,000 in 2014-15 and 1,249,000 in 2013-14.

The other nation importing more than 1 million tonnes of wheat flour in grain equivalent is Uzbekistan, and its takings in 2015-16 were forecast at 1,300,000, against 1,230,000 in the prior crop season. Here, too, the I.G.C. cited “tighter local supplies of wheat.”

Syria also was seen as maintaining its expanded flour imports, again taking 700,000 tonnes in 2015-16, against 525,000 in 2013-14. In prior years, Syria rarely imported as much as 100,000 tonnes. The Council noted that Syria’s wheat crop this year was expected to be below average in size and that its flour milling capacity had been reduced as a result of internal conflicts in that country.

In the Western Hemisphere, Brazil and Bolivia continued as major flour markets. Brazil’s imports in 2015-16 were projected at 650,000 tonnes, unchanged from the previous season. Bolivia’s imports also were seen as being maintained at 250,000.

U.S. flour imports were projected for 2015-16 at 230,000 tonnes, unchanged from the previous season.

Angola, forecast to take 640,000 tonnes of flour in grain equivalent in 2015-16, stands out as the principal flour importer in Africa.

“Solid third country demand” was credited with helping to maintain E.U. flour exports.

Through the end of the 20th century, the European Union was usually the leader in flour exporting, instead of Kazakhstan or Turkey, the current leaders. At times in the past century, U.S. flour exports vied with the E.U. for leadership and in many seasons ranked as second in global flour shipments. Thus, in 1999-00, E.U. flour exports totaled 4,374,000 tonnes, accounting for 45% of the global total, and U.S. shipments were 1,399,000 tonnes, or 15% of the aggregate.

In the 2015-16 projections, the E.U. was estimated to ship 1 million tonnes, down from 1,040,000 in 2014-15. U.S. flour exports in 2015-16 were forecast at 300,000 tonnes, against 320,000 in 2014-15.
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