LONDON — Global wheat flour trade is forecast to increase by 9% in the 2021-22 marketing year, according to the latest quarterly report from the International Grains Council (IGC).

Although the projected total of 14.7 million tonnes (wheat equivalent) is about 200,000 tonnes lower than the IGC’s previous forecast in July, it is still well above the estimated 13.5 million tonnes traded in 2020-21.

Last year marked the lowest trade total since 2013-14, when 13.2 million tonnes of wheat flour were traded. Flour trade in 2020-21 was severely hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic and transportation problems related to it, the IGC said. 

The IGC said one caveat regarding this year’s projected 9% increase is that “recovery partly hinges on an easing of logistical challenges that were seen in 2020-21, especially a shortage of shipping containers and resultant high costs.”

Four months into the current marketing year, many of those logistical problems persist.

The IGC’s forecast for this year includes an assumed upturn in Iraq’s imports, to 2.7 million tonnes (compared to 1.9 million last year), “which follows a poorer domestic harvest, although actual trade data for July show little year-on-year change in volumes, with supplies mostly from Turkey.”

Turkey is also the main exporter to sub-Saharan Africa, with early-season shipments to the region only modestly higher year-on-year, the IGC said.

Turkey is forecast to again lead the world in flour exports at 4.90 million tonnes, up from last year’s 4.53 million.

The Council said Afghanistan, which is in the midst of extreme turmoil after the United States withdrew its military at the end of August, will play an important role in this year’s flour trade.

“As the second largest world importer, Afghanistan’s purchases will be one of the key determinants of the overall level of global trade,” the IGC said. “Afghanistan’s flour imports are predominantly from Kazakhstan, where export availabilities are expected to be tighter this season following a smaller domestic harvest.”

Kazakhstan export data for July confirm lower shipments to Afghanistan, and the IGC sees the country’s imports falling to 2 million tonnes this year from 2.49 million tonnes in 2020-21.

Kazakhstan is projected to rank second in exports behind Turkey, with 2.15 million tonnes, down slightly from a year ago.