Quantifying Wheat Flour Exported and Imported in Processed Food Commodities

S. Patricia Batres-Marquez, Helen H. Jensen
September 2002  [02-SR 110]

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Batres-Marquez, S.P. and H.H. Jensen. 2002. "Quantifying Wheat Flour Exported and Imported in Processed Food Commodities." Staff report 02-SR 110. Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University.


Wheat is the major grain product eaten in the United States, with wheat flour and other products representing 75 percent of total grain consumption in 1997 (Putnam and Allshouse, 1999). The United States is the world’s leading wheat exporter. Wheat and wheat products represented 6.63 percent of agricultural exports by value in 2001, and averaged 8.22 percent over the period 1995 through 2001. U.S. imports of wheat grain are small compared with exports. During the same period, 1995 through 2001, wheat imports were 1.48 percent of agricultural imports by value (USDA, FATUS, 2002). In 2000/01 wheat flour and products (uncooked pasta, couscous, wheat pellets) made up 3.7% of the total 1.1 billion bushels wheat exported and the remainder was wheat grain (USDA, ERS, 2002)

An estimate of the amount of wheat flour consumed in the U.S., or “disappearance”, is calculated as a residual from the total wheat flour supply less exports. Because wheat flour is used to produce a wide variety of wheat-based food products, it is important to identify any discrepancies between the reported quantities of wheat flour available for consumption in the food supply data and actual wheat flour available for consumption. One source of such discrepancies is the fact that the food supply estimates do not account for the amount of wheat flour used in the production of food items such as cookies, mixes and dough, breads, and biscuits in the estimates of imports and exports. At present, the import and export (hence food supply) data account only for trade in wheat flour used in uncooked macaroni and noodle products.

By knowing the amount of wheat flour used in the production of wheat-based foods that enter international markets, food supply data can be adjusted to measure the disappearance of wheat more accurately. In this report, we consider adjustments only to wheat flour estimates. Wheat is also exported and imported as grain.