Countries show annual increases in flour production

by Morton Sosland
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LONDON — In its annual data on flour production around the world, covering 2006 output in major countries, the International Grains Council showed a preponderance of small gains. Of 20 leading producing countries for which 2006 wheat flour output is presented in the I.G.C.’s World Grain Statistics for 2007, 12 countries posted production gains, six showed decreases from 2005, and two were unchanged.

The 20 major producing countries (those with output of at least 2 million tonnes, or 44 million cwts, of wheat flour in the year) reported in its latest compilation actually cover all but nine of the nations with flour output at this level.

At the same time, the data for 2006 omit the world’s largest flour producer, China, and several other major milling nations like Pakistan, Turkey, Russia and Iran. In addition, in countries like India, the I.G.C. report only covers the so-called commercial flour milling industry, and thus omits a vast quantity of flour produced by small local mills. The same situation rules several other countries.

The United States, turning out 18,298,000 tonnes of wheat flour in 2006, ranked well in the lead among the nations reporting output for the year. The second largest reporting producer was Brazil, where the year’s output was 7,382,000 tonnes.

The significance of the countries for which the I.G.C. was unable to gather reliable data is indicated by the level of their output in the last year output was reported. In the case of China, this was 2003, when that nation’s flour output totaled 63.9 million tonnes, which was just about three and a half times U.S. production the same year.

Turkey, in the last year its output was reported, 2004, turned out 11.7 million tonnes, and Russia, last reported for 2005, accounted for output of 10,120,000.

Production by U.S. mills in 2006, at 18,298,000 tonnes, showed a gain of 2.1% over the prior year but was only 1.4% above its production a decade earlier, in 1996. Output also rose in Mexico, by 1.6% over the prior year, to 2,689,000 tonnes, but Canada, America’s northern neighbor, registered a 0.5% decrease in turning out 2,424 ,000 tonnes.

For the three major producers of North America, production in 2006, according to the I.G.C. report, totaled 23,411,000 tonnes, up 1.8% from 22,997,000 in 2005 and 3% more than 22,734,000 a decade earlier, in 1996.

Leading producers in Europe also posted output increases in 2006 over 2005. Germany, the European leader, produced 5,374,000 tonnes, up 4.1% from the prior year and this was one of the largest gains registered by any nation. France produced 4,410,000 tonnes, up 1.9% from the preceding year; the United Kingdom was at 4,433,000, up a minimal 0.1%, and mills in Italy, turning out 4,250,000, showed a decrease of 0.8%. Spain, the fifth leader in E.U. flour production, turned out 3,036,000 tonnes, down 1.2% from 2005.

The five E.U. country leaders, in total, turned out 18,467,000 tonnes of flour, an increase of 2% over the prior year. But the five-country total in 2006 was down 3.5% from the combined 1996 output of 19,131,000.

One of the sharpest output increases for a developed nation in 2006 occurred in The Netherlands, where the year’s production soared to 2.1 million tonnes, up a third from 1,580,000 in 2005.

The largest flour producer in eastern Europe among nations reported was Poland, accounting for 3 million tonnes in 2006, unchanged from the prior year, but 52% more than 1,969,000 tonnes produced a decade earlier in 1996. Output in Ukraine gained 1.6% to 2,282,000 tonnes, but this was down nearly 41% from 10 years earlier. In Romania, flour production in 2006 totaled 1,620,000 tonnes, down 7.4% from 1,750,000 in 2005, and down a third from the 1996 output.

Kazakhstan, a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the country that ranks first as an exporter of flour, mainly to neighboring nations, produced 2,805,000 tonnes of wheat flour in 2006. That was up 3% from the prior year and was 79% ahead of its 1996 output of 1,593,000.

In North Africa, the rise of Egypt’s flour milling industry, in contrast with the time the country was a major flour importer, is shown by its 2006 output totaling 6,780,000 tonnes. This was up 1.5% from the 2005 aggregate of 6,680,000 and was 92% ahead of 1990 when production reached 3.5 million.

The only other major producing nation in Africa, for which data were available, was South Africa. That country turned out 2,217,000 tonnes of wheat flour in 2006, up 3% from the prior year and 9.4% above a decade earlier.

Looking to Asia, Japan was the leading nation for which output was reported. Japan’s output in 2006 totaled 4,616,000 tonnes, unchanged from the preceding year and little different from the aggregate a decade earlier.

India, where food consumption of wheat ranks second to China, accounted for only 2,164,000 tonnes of wheat flour produced by its commercial mills in 2006. That was down 13% from the prior year and was down more than 50% from a decade earlier, probably the result of a realignment in the industry.

Mills in Australia produced 2,016,000 tonnes in 2006, down 3% from 2005, but up nearly 11% from a decade earlier.

Brazil’s output of 7,362,000 tonnes in 2006 was up 3.6% from 7,126,000 in 2005 and was 17% ahead of production a decade earlier in 1996. Argentina in 2006 produced 3,794,000 tonnes of flour, up 2% from the preceding year and 15% ahead of output in 1996. Output by Chile totaled 1,298,000 tonnes, about the same as in 2005 but 16% ahead of 1,120,000 in 1996.

In addition to assembling statistics on flour production around the world, the I.G.C. estimates food consumption of wheat in a number of countries, including some of the major flour producers where flour output data are not available. The Council cautions about converting its wheat food statistics into missing flour output data, and points out that in many countries much flour and similar products are made by home grinding or production in small mills not reporting to the central government for the purposes of reporting flour production.

For instance, in the case of India, where commercial flour output in 2006 was reported at 2,164,000 tonnes, consumption of wheat for food in the 2006-07 crop year was estimated at 67.1 million tonnes. The latter would indicate actual flour production many times the reported commercial figure.

Similarly in Ukraine, the flour output of 2,282,000 tonnes seems far short of estimated consumption of wheat for food of 6.6 million tonnes. Here, the indication was that the Soviet-era milling industry has disaggregated into a number of smaller, independent mills not covered by official flour production statistics.

In the case of China, the I.G.C. estimated its consumption of wheat for food in 2006-07 at 91 million tonnes, compared with 92.9 million in the previous season. Food use in Russia, another country without current flour output data, was estimated at 16.6 million tonnes, the same as in 2005-06.

In contrast with the apparent large discrepancy between flour production and consumption of wheat as food in many nations, the I.G.C. data for the United States shows flour production and wheat food use in close balance.

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