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World wheat flour trade

08 April 20247 min reading

The latest developments in the global wheat flour trade shed light on the dynamic landscape of international grain markets and underscore the critical role of flour as a staple food commodity. In our April issue, we explore the trends, forecasts, and emerging patterns in wheat flour trade worldwide.

Wheat flour stands as one of the cornerstones of global food security, playing a pivotal role in meeting the dietary needs of billions worldwide. From the daily bread consumed by millions to the myriad of baked goods and culinary delights, wheat flour forms the foundation of many diets across the globe. Its importance transcends borders and cultures, making it an indispensable commodity in the realm of food production and trade.

Wheat is one of the most widely cultivated crops globally, with flour derived from its grains serving as a primary source of dietary energy and essential nutrients for a large portion of the world’s population. In regions where wheat is a dietary staple, such as North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and parts of Asia, the availability of wheat flour is critical for ensuring nutritional adequacy and food stability. Moreover, wheat flour’s versatility in culinary applications, from bread-making to pasta production, makes it a highly adaptable and widely consumed food product. Its long shelf life and relative affordability further enhance its appeal as a staple food item, particularly in regions where access to fresh produce is limited or seasonal.

The global flour trade serves as a vital component of the world’s food supply chain, enabling countries to meet domestic demand and supplement local production deficits. It becomes evident that the flour trade is not merely a commercial transaction but a vital component of global food security, connecting nations, and communities across borders.

According to the International Grains Council’s report released in March 2024, the outlook for the 2023/24 (July/June) season is characterized by robust growth in the global wheat flour trade. Projections indicate a significant uptick in trade volume, reaching 15.1 million tons, marking a 4% increase compared to the previous year and representing the highest volume in five seasons, if realized.

TURKISH FLOUR EXPORTS SURGE

One of the notable factors driving this growth is the expected rebound in deliveries to sub-Saharan Africa, a major importing region heavily reliant on attractively priced supplies from Turkey. Strong demand from countries like Ethiopia and Sudan is anticipated to boost imports to a five-year high of 2.7 million tons, showcasing the region’s increasing dependence on imported flour to meet domestic needs.

Haluk Tezcan
Chairman of the Turkish Flour
Industrialists’ Federation (TUSAF)

Turkey has been the world leader in flour exports for 10 years. Turkey’s flour exports have increased by more than 60 percent in the last decade. With 3 million 663 thousand tons of flour exports in 2023, Turkish flour industrialists achieved the highest flour exports in world history. They aim to export approximately 4 million tons of flour in 2024.

Haluk Tezcan, Chairman of the Turkish Flour Industrialists’ Federation (TUSAF), stated that Turkey’s flour exports in 2023 showed a 20 percent increase compared to the previous year. Tezcan informed that Turkey has a production capacity of 30 million tons across 598 factories in 69 provinces. He emphasized, “We have the capability to increase our export figures to 20 million tons. Many countries impose various obstacles, including taxes, against the Turkish flour industry. We face challenges, particularly as we compete with developed countries such as the USA and France in their markets. We aim to export 4 million tons of flour in 2024.” Tezcan also mentioned that Turkish flour industrialists are determined to maintain a strong presence in world markets. He added, “Our new target is to achieve $2 billion in exports by the end of 2028.”

PROMISING START FOR TURKISH FLOUR EXPORTS IN 2024

Dr. Eren Günhan Ulusoy
IAOM Eurasia President

Regarding the same matter, IAOM (International Association of Operative Miller) Eurasia President Dr. Eren Günhan Ulusoy said: “Today, our industry exports flour to 164 countries, in other words, it feeds the world. 90 percent of the world’s population consumes Turkish flour. In 2023, we renewed the record with 3 million 663 thousand tons of exports and generated approximately 1.5 billion dollars in revenue. Since 2020, various factors have disrupted supply chains and impacted food safety. Despite challenges posed by the pandemic and conflicts, Turkey has emerged as a primary supplier of this essential food staple. With our established leadership, we have solidified our position as the go-to source, particularly during difficult times.”

Ulusoy highlighted that Turkish flour exporters have commenced 2024 with a promising trajectory. He remarked, “In January, we achieved a 22 percent increase in exports compared to the same period last year, totaling 344 thousand tons. Furthermore, in February, our exports amounted to 322 thousand tons, reflecting a notable 60 percent increase in quantity compared to February last year. We anticipate further growth in exports throughout March. These robust early indicators suggest a successful year ahead. Iraq, Djibouti, and Syria emerged as the top destinations for our flour exports in February. Our target for 2024 is to surpass 4 million tons of flour exports.”

Ulusoy also emphasized Turkey’s consistent expansion in the export of bakery products, stating, “We lead global flour exports and rank second in pasta exports. Over the past two decades, our flour exports have increased by a factor of 11, pasta exports by 30, bulgur exports by 15, semolina exports by 5, and biscuit exports by 4.”

CHALLENGES IN THE FLOUR TRADE

Gürsel Erbap
CEO of Doruk Un

Despite the positive outlook for world flour trade, challenges persist, including potential disruptions in supply chains and uncertainties surrounding trade policies and geopolitical dynamics. Speaking to Miller Magazine, Gürsel Erbap, CEO of Doruk Un, one of the largest Turkish flour producers and exporters, highlighted that in recent months, global trade has been hindered by disruptions at the Suez Canal. Attacks on vessels in the Red Sea area have reduced traffic through the Suez Canal, the shortest maritime route between Asia and Europe, through which approximately 15 percent of global maritime trade volume normally passes. Consequently, shipping companies diverted their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope, increasing delivery times by approximately 20 days or more on average. Erbap noted, “This logistical inconvenience, coupled with a shortage of containers and services, has resulted in a slowdown in subsequent flour deliveries, particularly to East African markets, despite the urgency of the importing destinations.”

INSIGHTS ON FLOUR CONSUMPTION TRENDS

Erbap also shared his insights on flour consumption trends worldwide. He mentioned that there is a growing global trend towards flour and bakery products that promise healthy digestion, leading to increased consumer demand for such products and pushing producers to introduce line extensions in this category. He also observed that in the future, the plant-based food category is expected to claim a larger share of the food industry. Additionally, he emphasized that consumers are becoming more conscious about sustainable food production, which is prompting producers to intensify their efforts in this regard. Erbap stated, “Food companies are making increasing efforts each year to take action towards sustainable food supply and environmental conservation. At Doruk Flour Mills, we believe that sustainable success for the Turkish flour industry will be achieved by creating value-added products and implementing sustainable business practices. Therefore, through investments in innovation and sustainability, we aim to lead our sector in creating this added value in the coming years. In 2024, we will introduce a Plant-Based Health-Conscious Flour Product portfolio for the first time in Turkey, and we will also work on sustainable wheat supply by developing new wheat varieties that provide three times higher yield, require less fertilizer, and are more resilient to drought.”

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