Sri Lanka Set to Import More Feed Wheat
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Sri Lanka does not produce Wheat and has been importing Wheat for flour milling for decades. The USDA forecasts Sri Lanka’s MY 2022/2023 (July-June) Wheat total consumption at 1.27 MMT, up by 88,000 MT, from Post’s MY 2021/2022 estimate of 1.18 MMT. Increased consumption levels would occur as more foreign exchange becomes available for Wheat imports.
Rising prices and tightening trade policies affected Wheat consumption in MY 2021/2022. With the exhaustion of Sri Lanka’s hard currency reserves, imports of foreign-origin Wheat for flour milling dropped precariously. With fewer Wheat flour-based products and the drop in rice availability, consumers have reduced their consumption while turning to alternative sources of carbohydrates derived from root-flour and even jackfruit.
Sri Lanka’s leading Wheat suppliers include Canada, Russia, Australia, Pakistan, India, and Romania. According to the AgFlow data, Australia led their import market with 0.3 MMT in 2021-2022, followed by India (0.27 MMT) and Romania (0.14 MMT). Due to recurring shortages in domestic corn production, Sri Lanka will continue to authorize the imports of Wheat for animal feed milling. Entry requirements are highly restrictive for de-husked, bulk Wheat imported for animal feed production. Unlike the case of Wheat imports for human consumption, where the two millers’ production locations are easily verifiable by authorities, small- to medium-sized feed mills are scattered and often lack adequate infrastructure.
The country’s agricultural policy focused over the years on achieving self-sufficiency in rice. It has favored rice production over Wheat imports. Given the staunch support for rice, Wheat consumption has been increasing only marginally. Imported Wheat is milled under controlled conditions at the port of entry. MY 2022/2023 Wheat ending stocks is forecast at 200,000 MT. With Wheat imports increasing, along with marginal increments in consumption combined with a slower pace in exports, ending stocks should again commence rising.
There are only two flour millers (Prima Ceylon Ltd. and Serendib Flour Mills) operating (milling Wheat for human consumption) in Sri Lanka. These millers are responsible for most of Sri Lanka’s annual Wheat imports. With a 3,600 MT/day milling capacity, the larger of the two millers accounts for the bulk of Sri Lanka’s flour milling. Sri Lanka has excess milling capacity that outpaces domestic demand for Wheat flour. The largest milling facility has a 350,000 MT storage capacity. A significant volume of Sri Lanka’s Wheat imports in previous years was making its way to other Asia-Pacific region countries as milled Wheat flour exports.
Sri Lankan Wheat Product Exports
The USDA forecasts Sri Lanka’s MY 2022/2023 Wheat product exports at about 15,000 MT. The lower export volume going forward compared to previous years is premised on the drop in imported volumes in MY 2021/2022 through MY 2022/2023. The Sri Lankan market had, before the economic crisis of 2021-22, been saturated with domestically milled Wheat flour. The country’s two millers had previously sought to offload excess Wheat flour production in neighboring and regional foreign markets. The main export destinations include the Maldives, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
The Sri Lankan rupee’s depreciation in MY 2021/2022 contributed to Wheat flour-based product price increases. In Colombo, the open market retail price of 1 kilogram of Wheat flour has jumped from LKR 95.52 ($0.48) in July 2021 to LKR 297.86 ($0.83), up 212 percent because of the country’s self-inflicted economic crisis along with its rice production disruption brought about by the 2021 chemical fertilizer import ban. This occurred when rising global Wheat prices made it increasingly more difficult for the foreign currency-starved Sri Lankan economy to finance Wheat imports for flour milling.
Other sources: https://www.usda.gov
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