Near East Asia drives record flour trade

06.11.2017

Increasing wheat flour imports to the Near East Asia region, driven by conflict, is playing a part in the continued upward climb of world flour trade, which is now expected to reach a new record of 17 million tonnes in the 2017-18 crop year.

The International Grains Council (IGC) increased its estimate by 200,000 tonnes from the 16.8 million tonnes estimated in its May Market Report. The IGC also revised upward the estimated total trade for 2016-17 to 16.8 million tonnes, also up 200,000 tonnes from its estimate of 16.6 million tonnes in the May report.

The estimate of 17 million tonnes, reflecting flour exports in terms of wheat ground, was equal to nearly 375 million cwts of flour.

Global flour exports have trended upward since 2012-13, when 12.65 million tonnes were traded. Flour exports first passed 12 million tonnes in 2007-08, 13 million and 14 million in 2011-12, and 15 million in 2015-16. It was in 2002-03 that flour exports first moved above 10 million tonnes.

Trade in Near East Asia, particularly Iraq and Syria, has doubled over the past five years. In 2014-15, the region imported 2.36 million tonnes and estimates for 2017-18 are calling for 3.95 million tonnes.

Local flour milling industries have been disrupted by conflicts, leading to increased imports. Iraq is expected to import 2.55 million tonnes in 2017-18, up from 2.45 million tonnes a year earlier and from 1.488 million tonnes in 2014-15. The IGC estimated that Syria will import 600 million tonnes, the same as a year earlier, but nearly double the 322 million tonnes imported in 2014-15.

The IGC does not include exports of durum semolina in its computations on global flour exports. Durum semolina shipments in the current crop season were unchanged at 420,000 tonnes of wheat equivalent, compared with 400,000 in the previous crop season. Adding in these exports brings the prospective 2017-18 total outgo to 17.42 million tonnes, against 17.2 million in the preceding season.

Semolina exports would be the highest in 13 years, or since 428,000 tonnes in 2004-05.

Significant increases from the IGC’s previous report also were noted in Afghanistan, which is now expected to import 2.69 million tonnes, up from 2.65 million tonnes. Angola saw a significant increase from an estimated 620,000 tonnes to 800,000 tonnes, and Bolivia’s imports were estimated up 60,000 tonnes to 400,000 tonnes.

Increases were partly offset by a number of small reductions, the IGC said, including: Mexico, down 25,000 tonnes to 275,000 tonnes; Uzbekistan, down 100,000 tonnes to 1.1 million tonnes; the United States, down 25,000 tonnes to 350,000 tonnes; Brazil, down 50,000 tonnes to 650,000 tonnes; the Philippines, down 50,000 tonnes to 250,000 tonnes; Somalia, down 50,000 tonnes to 200,000 tonnes; and Sudan, down 55,000 tonnes to 820,000 tonnes.

Argentina on heels of E.U.

The top three largest exporters — Turkey, Kazakhstan and the E.U. — will continue to lead, but projections were trimmed. This was due to sustained competition from other origins, including Argentina, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Argentina, which was up 40,000 tonnes to 1.14 million, is coming close to levels exported by the E.U., the world’s third largest exporter. The new estimates have the E.U., which includes 28 countries, exporting 1.15 million tonnes, down 50,000 tonnes from May estimates, but up 50,000 tonnes from 2015-16.

Ukraine’s estimates were up 50,000 tonnes to 550,000 tonnes, which is down slightly from the 562,000 tonnes exported in 2015-16.

The United Arab Emirates saw the biggest increase of 210,000 tonnes to a total of 540,000 tonnes. While this was a significant jump from May estimates, the new total is equal to exports from 2015-16. A significant increase of 200,000 tonnes also was seen in Pakistan, which is now expected to export 700,000 tonnes, the same as it did in 2015-16.

Turkey, the world’s largest exporter, is forecast to export 5.45 million tonnes, down 300,000 tonnes from the May estimate of 5.75 million tonnes. Kazakhstan’s estimates were down 50,000 tonnes to 3.2 million tonnes, which is nearly equal to the 3.191 million tonnes exported in 2015-16.

Turkey and Kazakhstan are projected to have global flour export market shares of 32% and 19%, respectively. The third greatest market share for an individual country is Argentina, at 6.7%.

Other increases were seen in Australia, up 10,000 tonnes to 40,000 tonnes; Ukraine up 50,000 tonnes to 550,000 tonnes; and the United States, up 15,000 tonnes to 450,000 tonnes.


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