Global flour exports to reach new peak in 2016-17

by Morton Sosland
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Global flour exports
Would be third consecutive season a new record has been set.

LONDON — In its initial forecast of world trade in wheat flour in the 2016-17 season, the International Grains Council pointed to a new record being set for the third successive crop year. Growth in annual trade in 2015-16 was 5%, one of the sharpest of recent years. In many seasons, including the one just starting, trade growth was less than 1%.

The I.G.C. placed prospective world flour exports in 2016-17 at 15,050,000 tonnes in grain equivalent, compared with the newly-revised 2015-16 total of 15,010,000 and the 2014-15 shipments aggregating 14,253,000.  It was only in the most recent crop years that trade approached setting new records. The peak prior to this was 14,560,000 in 2011-12. It was in the first decade of the 21st century that global flour shipments for the first time exceeded 10 million tonnes.

Exports of durum semolina are not included in the I.G.C. data on wheat flour exports. In a separate compilation, 2016-17 exports of durum semolina were forecast at 400,000 tonnes, unchanged from the two preceding crop years. Adding the durum semolina to the export total brings aggregate trade in wheat flour in 2016-17 as projected to reach 15,450,000 tonnes, practically unchanged from 15,410,000 in the prior season.

In the revised compilations, Turkey’s lead as the world’s largest flour exporting country was emphasized. That nation was projected to account for shipments of 4,650,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent, against 4,550,000 in 2015-16 and 3,531,000 in 2014-15. Accounting for 31% of global export trade in wheat flour, Turkey has held the lead since 2012-13. Prior to that, it vied with Kazakhstan for first place as a flour shipper.

In the forecast for 2016-17, Kazakhstan held second place, with prospective shipments of 2,850,000 tonnes, against 2,750,000 in the previous crop year and 2,385,000 in 2014-15. The Kazakhstan forecast of exports would account for 19% of global clearances. Thus, Turkey and Kazakhstan combined are expected to account for 50% of global trade in flour, against 40% just a few years ago.

The only other shipper accounting for at least 1 million tonnes was the European Union. The E.U. projection for 2016-17 was 1 million tonnes, against 1,100,000 in 2015-16.

Other major exporting countries in the 2016-17 forecast were Argentina, 750,000 tonnes, United Arab Emirates, 650,000, and Pakistan, 600,000.

In commenting on the export outlook for flour, the I.G.C. said Turkey and Kazakhstan will continue to benefit from strong demand in nearby Near East Asia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The I.G.C. also observed that much of the growth of trade in recent years came from Near East Asia “where armed conflict has disrupted local milling industries in some countries.”

Iraq continued as the major importer of wheat flour in the 2016-17 forecast, its likely takings placed at 2,300,000 tonnes, unchanged from 2015-16 and compared with 1,488,000 in 2014-15.

Afghanistan stayed as the second largest importer, its 2016-17 imports projected to reach 1,800,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, against 2,000,000 in the previous year and 1,820,000 in 2014-15.

Imports by Syria were projected to fall to 450,000 tonnes from 500,000 in the preceding season.

Uzbekistan, a member of the C.I.S., ranked third as a flour importer. Its takings were forecast at 1,250,000 tonnes, against 1,200,000 in 2015-16 and 1,137,000 in 2014-15.

The E.U. import and export numbers were both at 1 million tonnes. U.S. exports were projected at 400,000 tonnes and imports at 300,000.

The total of flour moving into Africa in 2016-17 was forecast at 2,570,000 tonnes, against 2,478,000 in the prior season. The I.G.C. said, “The increasing popularity of wheat-based foods will likely help to sustain growth in shipments to sub-Saharan Africa but figures are little changed year over year for other regions.”
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