Global flour export forecast raised

by Morton Sosland
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LONDON — Prospects for global flour exports in 2008-09 increased by nearly 400,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent in the latest estimates issued by the International Grains Council. Even with the gain, the new assessment of this season’s export flour trade fell 8% from the record trade volume achieved in the prior season.

According to I.G.C. computations, world exports of wheat flour in 2008-09 will reach 10,955,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent, up nearly 400,000 tonnes from the prior forecast issued last January. That increase, as well as revisions in prior year data on global flour trade, largely reflects revised official export figures for Turkey. That country in recent years has been among the leaders in global flour exporting.

At the new figure of 10,955,000 tonnes, world flour exports in 2008-09 compare with the record of 11,860,000 in 2007-08 and the previous peak of 11,186,000 in 1996-97. This crop year’s aggregate was slightly ahead of the revised totals of 10,694,000 for 2006-07 and 10,846,000 for 2005-06.

Accounting importantly for the flour trade record in 2007-08 were export controls imposed on wheat by many countries — steps that often encouraged takings of flour — in reaction to sharply higher wheat prices and concerns about supply adequacy. With those controls now mostly eliminated, flour trade has shrunk, and several leading importers cut back on their takings. The I.G.C. particularly pointed to the impact of reduced imports by Brazil, down to 850,000 tonnes from 1,076,000 in 2008-09; by Afghanistan, at 800,000 tonnes, compared with 915,000 in the prior year, and Libya, down to 900,000 from 1,060,000.

The I.G.C. data still ranked Kazakhstan as the world’s leading flour exporter in 2008-09, with expected shipments of 1,850,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent, or 17% of total world flour trade. The Kazakhstan total was down from the two prior seasons when its exports of flour were slightly above 2 million tonnes in wheat equivalent. Its exports go mainly to three neighboring countries, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Tajikistan was forecast to take 800,000 tonnes and Uzbekistan 900,000.

Turkey, which counts Iraq and Indonesia as major flour markets, was expected to ship 1,750,000 tonnes in wheat equivalent this crop season, an upward revision of 450,000 tonnes from the earlier estimate. In addition, the new official data resulted in boosting Turkey’s flour exports in 2007-08 by 390,000 to 1,520,000 and in 2006-07 by 720,000 to 1,754,000.

Ranking in third place as a flour exporter in 2008-09 was the European Union, forecast to ship 1,350,000 tonnes, against 1,230,000 in 2007-08. This outgo, which was unchanged from earlier in the year, marked the first annual rise in E.U. exports in many years. Now ranked third as a flour exporter, the E.U. not long ago was the world’s leading shipper.

The only other nation expected to ship more than 1 million tonnes of wheat flour in 2008-09 was Argentina, with an outgo of 1,200,000 tonnes, against 1,530,000 in the preceding season.

For the United States, flour exports in 2008-09 were forecast at 450,000 tonnes, against 470,000 in the prior season and the recent low of 312,000 in 2005-06.

Besides the four leading exporters accounting for more than 1 million tonnes each, countries shipping more than the United States included Pakistan, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Lagging the United States were Australia, Canada, Japan and Ukraine.

No country was expected to import more than 1 million tonnes of wheat flour in grain equivalent in 2008-09, compared with two in that category in the prior season. Last year’s leaders, Brazil at 1,076,000 tonnes and Libya with 1,060,000, were forecast at 850,000 and 900,000 tonnes, respectively, in 2008-09. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan followed.

Other leading flour importers included Afghanistan at 800,000 tonnes and Indonesia at 700,000.

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