Growth in national flour output tends to slow down

by Morton Sosland
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Flour output
The I.G.C. forecast use of wheat for food in 2017-18 at 502.9 million tonnes.

LONDON — The latest data on national flour production assembled by the International Grains Council point to a slowing or even reversal of prior upward trends. From the United States experiencing a slight gain to several leading countries in Europe registering decreases, the pattern painted by these national statistics point to difficulties experienced by wheat foods makers.

The I.G.C. report on flour production in countries around the world also shows how millers in several nations in Far East Asia, in sub-Sahara Africa and in South America benefited from sharp increases.

In its latest Grain Market Report, the I.G.C. commented on the present pace of world wheat consumption, placed at 740 million tonnes in the 2016-17 crop season, as “only a slight increase from the year before.”

In regard to consumption of wheat for food and feed, the I.G.C. said:

“Global food use will likely continue to edge higher, to 503 million tonnes. Equivalent to about 66.9 kilograms per capita, which would be marginally up year over year. Most of the growth is expected to be in developing countries in Asia and Africa, where population increase remains quite strong and, in some countries, wheat-based foods are becoming more popular.

“To a large extent, demand for feed will hinge on prices relative to alternatives. With global supply potentially remaining elevated in the coming year and with some old crop stocks probably of poor quality in certain countries, feeding could be only a little below the current year, at 147 million tonnes, against 152 million currently.”

The I.G.C. forecast use of wheat for food in 2017-18 at 502.9 million tonnes, against 496.2 million in the preceding season and 489.1 million in 2015-16. The forecast for next year was up 1.4%, against a rise of 1.5% in the prior season.

So far as changes in national output are concerned, the I.G.C. data emphasized a sharp fall in flour output in Europe. Germany, which is the continent’s largest miller, produced 5,976,000 tonnes of wheat flour, down 6.7% from 2013, but still 17.2% ahead of this century’s start in 2000. France, the second largest European miller, turned out 4,275,000 tonnes of wheat flour in 2014, down 3.8% from 2013 and also 10.9% less than in 2000. Mills in the United Kingdom produced 3,873,000 tonnes of flour in 2014, down 5.5% from 2013 and 13.7% down from 2000.

North American flour production, while short of prior gains, did much better than Europe. U.S. flour mills in 2014 produced 21,588,000 tonnes of wheat flour, up 0.1% from 2013 and 13% ahead of 2000 output. Mills in Canada produced 2,222,000 tonnes, unchanged from the preceding year and 6.4% less than in 2000. Mexico performed best, with production of 3,331,000 tonnes, up 0.3% from the prior year and 31.2% ahead of 2000.

The three North American countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement in 2014 produced 27,200,000 tonnes, up 0.3% from 2013 and well ahead of 24,088,000 in 2000.

Millers in South America were among the bright spots in showing output increases. Argentina, a leading exporter, turned out 4,124,000 tonnes, up 9.5% from 2013 and 21% more than in 2000. Brazil turned out 8,399,000 cwts, down 0.3% from the prior year but 23.7% more than at the century’s start.

Millers in Eastern Europe and Russia and its neighbors showed little or no change in flour output. The total for Russia was 9,700,000 tonnes, down 2.2% from the previous year and 6.6% less than in 2000. Ukraine milled 2,346,000 tonnes, down 6.5% from 2013. Kazakhstan, a major flour exporter to neighboring nations, produced 3,883,000 tonnes, up 0.1% from 2013, but a whopping 123% more than in 2000. Azerbaijan produced 1,476,000 tonnes, up 2.6% from the preceding year and 530.8% more than at the century’s beginning.

Output in Romania was placed at 1,050,000 tonnes, down a third from the prior year.

Near East Asia’s prominent role in flour production was confirmed by these data. Turkey, which is the largest exporter of wheat flour, showed its mills producing 8,479,000 tonnes of wheat flour in 2014, compared with 8,334,000 in 2013, but down 21% from 2000.

Saudi Arabia milled 2,544,000 tonnes, closely in line with the prior year’s 2,556,000.

The world’s largest flour producer, China, does not provide output figures to the I.G.C., and also no estimates were made for India, another leading wheat grinder. The last time a number was given for China was in 2007, at 65,272,000 tonnes. Along that line, in releasing these data, the I.G.C. emphasized that for most countries, output is reported covering only commercial milling plants, and this means that flour output, especially in developing nations, may be considerably underestimated.

The major Asian miller reporting to the I.G.C. was Indonesia, placed at 5,431,000 tonnes of wheat flour in 2014, up 5.5% from 2013 and 113.6% more than in 2000. This was the first year of flour output reported for Mongolia, placed at 1,460,000 tonnes.

The fastest growth in flour milling production and capacity is occurring in Africa, mainly in sub-Saharan nations, but also is expanding rapidly in North Africa. Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, has not reported flour production since 2012 when it turned out nearly 6 million tonnes. Nigeria has not provided flour production data for years, and it has an active milling industry serving that nation with the largest population on the continent

Sudan exemplifies the growth in the African flour market, turning out 1,957,000 tonnes of wheat flour, up 54.8% so far in the second decade of this century.
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