WASHINGTON — Exports of flour from the United States posted a sudden surge in the third quarter of 2009, according to data provided by the Department of Commerce on export shipments. The outgo for July-September 2009 reached 1,945,000 cwts, more than twice the pace of exports in the first two quarters of the year. Indeed, the third-quarter movement was the largest for the three months in six years.

At 1,945,000 cwts, July-September exports contrast with 878,000 cwts in the second quarter and 946,000 in the first three months of 2009. The third quarter was up 87% from the outgo of 1,042,000 cwts in the same 2008 period and was nearly three times the recent low of 699,000 cwts in July-September 2006.

The quarter’s shipments were the largest for the three months since 2,356,000 cwts were exported in July-September 2003. The recent peak in third-quarter exports occurred in 1999, with clearances of 5,456,000 cwts.

Primarily accounting for this sudden expansion in U.S. flour exports were clearances to two "new" destinations — 349,000 cwts to Belgium and 383,000 to the United Arab Emirates. These were the first American exports to Belgium in a number of years and likely reflected an unusual, but unknown, situation. In the case of clearances to the Emirates, the U.A.E. has been a sizable exporter of flour in recent years, and these were the first sizable exports to that destination in a long time.

Still the leading destination for U.S. flour exports in the third quarter was Canada, accounting for 422,000 cwts. The only other major destination in the three months was Mexico, at 265,000 cwts.

Even with the dramatic climb in third-quarter exports, cumulative shipments of flour from the United States in the first nine months of 2009 were down from the same 2008 period, by 2%. January-September exports amounted to 3,770,000 cwts, against 3,849,000 in the same period of 2008 and 4,724,000 in 2007. The recent low in nine-month exports was 2,656,000 cwts in 2006, while the recent peak was 13,476,000 cwts in 1999.