WASHINGTON — Exports of flour from the United States in 2009 increased 20% over the previous year, but still ranked among the smallest shipment totals of modern history. At the same time, the 2009 outgo also was substantially ahead of the recent low points in U.S. export flour business.

According to the Foreign Trade Division in the Census Bureau, wheat flour exports in the 2009 calendar year totaled 5,887,000 cwts, compared with 4,918,000 in 2008 and 7,143,000 in 2007. The latter represented a considerable rebound from the low point in exports, including shipments of 3,418,000 in 2006 and 3,606,000 in 2005. Recent export peaks included shipments of 17,752,000 in 1999 and nearly 23 million in each year from 1993 through 1995.

In addition to the wheat flour exports, the Census estimated that the equivalent of 5,337,000 cwts of flour was exported in the form of products, like bread, biscuits, pasta and bulgur. That was down from the pace of the two prior years, including 6,179,000 cwts in 2008 and 6,486,000 in 2007. In three of the last five years, exports of products were larger than flour alone.

Once again, Canada and Mexico, two North American neighbors, represented the major outlets for U.S. flour exports in 2009. Shipments to Canada totaled 1,676,000 cwts, or 28% of the total outgo, compared with 2,355,000 in 2008 when it accounted for nearly half of U.S. flour shipments to foreign destinations.

Mexico ranked second as a 2009 destination, accounting for shipments of 902,000 cwts, against 695,000 in the prior year. Mexico’s share of U.S. flour exports was 15%, against 14%in 2008.

Other leading destinations for U.S. flour in 2009 were Pakistan, at 641,000 cwts, and United Arab Emirates, at 472,000. One unusual import destination for U.S. flour was Belgium, to which 349,000 cwts were shipped.