LONDON — Global wheat flour trade in 2021-22 is forecast to reach its highest peak in three years and reverse a five-year downward trend, according to projections issued Jan. 13 by the International Grains Council (IGC).

The IGC predicts 14.8 million tonnes (wheat equivalent) to be traded this year, which is 9% higher than last year’s total but still well below the record of 17.6 million tonnes in 2016-17.

Since that record year, trade totals have declined to 16.9 million tonnes in 2017-18, 16.2 million tonnes in 2018-19, 14.6 million in 2019-20 and 13.8 million 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 projected first rebound in five years is largely linked to expectations for increased imports by Iraq, from 1.9 million to 2.7 million tonnes, following a sharp drop in domestic wheat production,” the IGC said. “However, with reported accumulated arrivals during the July to October period largely steady year-on-year, at around 800,000 tonnes, the forecast may be revised lower in the coming updates, should the pace fail to accelerate going forward.”

By contrast, imports by Afghanistan, the world’s top flour importer in recent years, are predicted to fall from 2.5 million to 2 million tonnes in 2021-22, with cumulative arrivals through October — mostly from Kazakhstan — lagging well behind last season.

Both Afghanistan and Kazakhstan are reeling from humanitarian and economic crises, which are undoubtedly impacting flour trade, although the IGC did not address those issues in its report.

Changes in import forecasts from the last report in October include an upward revision for Ethiopia, based on reported July-October arrivals in Djibouti (mostly from Turkey), assumed to be mainly transshipped to Ethiopia.

The import projection for Cuba, a relatively small buyer, also is increased modestly, reflecting larger than envisaged deliveries to date from Turkey.

The export figure for Turkey, by far the world’s largest flour exporter, is raised slightly by the IGC to 4.9 million tonnes, 11% higher than in 2020-21 and the highest since 2018-19.

Turkey accounts for about one-third of the world’s flour exports.

In Kazakhstan, the world’s second largest flour supplier, which has seen wheat production decline from the previous year, early-season shipping data confirmed a slower pace. The IGC forecasts an 8% decline year-on-year in flour exports from Kazakhstan to 2.2 million tonnes.