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Annex 3: Trade flows for wheat, maize, rice, palm oil and soybean oil


Wheat dominates world food trade. FAO estimated world exports of wheat in 2001 at US$14.6 billion (US$18.2 billion including wheat flour). While the major part of world market wheat exports comes from just five countries (United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina and France), in recent years, coinciding with lower Canadian and Argentine exports, there has been an increase in exports from Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.

In the five years up to 2001, Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for between 14 to 15 percent of world wheat imports. The major exporters to the region are the US, Canada and Argentina. For the NFIDCs and LDCs in the region[19], wheat is their major food import.

North Africa[20] is a major importer of wheat, accounting for 11-14 percent of world wheat imports; this amounted to US$2.26 billion in 2001. The major importer is Algeria, followed by Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia. Except for Algeria and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, and Sudan which is an LDC, they are all NFIDCs. The major suppliers to the region are, in order of importance, the US, France, Australia and Canada.

Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 4-7 percent of world wheat imports, worth US$1.1 billion in 2001. Most of these countries are considered NFIDCs or LDCs[21]. Among them, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Senegal are particularly large importers. The main exporters to this region are France (accounting for one third of the total) followed by Australia, US, Germany and Argentina.

Asia accounts for 40-43 percent of world wheat imports; among the NFIDCs and LDCs, Pakistan (which, however, has become a net wheat exporter since 2001), Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Yemen are the major wheat importers. Their major suppliers are the US and Australia.

As for the Pacific NFIDCs and LDCs[22], they have a share in world wheat imports of 4-7 percent, with Australia acting as their major supplier.


Around 11-13 percent of maize produced in the world is internationally traded. In 2001, world trade amounted to US$8.87 billion. A small number of countries are responsible for most exports, although not all of them are necessarily large producers. The US dominates (with a market share of more than 50 percent, in some years close to 70 percent), followed by France, Argentina, and China. China has been both a significant maize export and importer during the last decade. NFIDCs account for 10-12 of world maize imports (depending on the year), LDCs for 1-4 percent. Egypt is the major importer among NFIDCs, with 3-6 percent of world maize imports. Among LDCs, Yemen is the major maize importer, accounting for almost a quarter of the group’s total.

In the five years up to 2001, Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for 14-19 percent of world maize imports. The major exporters to the region are the US and Argentina, followed by South Africa, Mexico and Brazil. Among the NFIDCs and LDCs in the region, Venezuela and Peru are the major importers, followed by Dominican Republic, Honduras and Jamaica.

North Africa accounts for about 6-10 percent of world maize imports (worth around US$1 billion in 2001). Egypt is by far the leading importer of maize followed by Tunisia, Morocco and Sudan. Main exporters to the region are the US, Argentina, the EU (namely the Netherlands and France), Eastern Europe (Hungary, Romania, Croatia and Ukraine) and China.

Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 2-6 percent of world maize imports (with an import value of around US$260 million in 2001). Kenya and Mozambique are major importers followed by Angola and Lesotho. The main suppliers of the maize imported by the region’s NFIDCs and LDCs are South Africa and US, followed at a large distance by Zimbabwe and Italy.

Asia imports about 47-53 percent of world maize imports, to a value of about US$5 billion in 2001. The role of NFIDCs and LDCs in the region, however, is minor, less than 2 percent of total world imports. Jordan and Yemen are the major NFIDCs and LDCs importers, followed respectively by Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. A major exporter to the region is Argentina followed by the US and Canada.

Imports of maize are limited in the Pacific NFIDCs and LDCs.


Rice is the third most produced cereal in the world after wheat and maize. However, the international market for rice is thin and volatile. Most countries where rice is an important staple food have traditionally pursued a high degree of rice self-sufficiency to achieve food security. Only 4-6 percent of world production is internationally traded, and export volumes are driven more by domestic supply and demand balances than by world market prices. As a result, compared to the world market for wheat and maize, rice prices in international markets are rather unstable. A small production shortfall in an important rice producing country often results in a surge in import demand and triggers a sharp rise in international prices. This, in turn, can seriously hinder importers’ ability to secure affordable supplies on the world market.

Asia represents nearly 90 percent of world rice production, 70 percent of world exports and more than 50 percent of imports. Of the world’s seven largest rice exporters, only one (the United States, in the fourth position) is not Asian. In Asia, the principal exporting countries are Thailand, Viet Nam, China, India and Pakistan.

NFIDC and LDC imports of rice represent about 19-23 percent of world rice imports (US$1.55 billion in 2001). Among the countries in these groups, Côte d'Ivoire ranks first in imports followed by Senegal (2 percent of world imports) and Cuba (2 percent). Sierra Leone, Haiti, Yemen, Niger, Jordan, Burkina Faso, Kenya and Guinea each accounted for about 1 percent of world imports.

The US is the major rice supplier to Latin America (representing around 45 percent of total imports) followed by Uruguay and Guyana.

North Africa (which represents about 1 percent of global rice imports) buys mainly from Egypt, Thailand, India and the US. Sub-Saharan Africa’s share in world imports is rather variable, with a share that fluctuated between 6 percent and 25 percent in the period 1997-2001. It imports mainly from Asia: Viet Nam, India, Pakistan and Thailand (in 2001, Africa accounted for 47 percent of total Thai rice exports).

In the period 1997-2001, Asia accounted for about 40-52 percent of world rice imports. Yemen, Jordan and Bangladesh are important NFIDC importers. India is the major supplier, at times supplying 85 percent of the total demand in the region. Among the Pacific NFDICs, the Solomon Islands are the largest importer, followed by Vanuatu. They buy their rice mostly from Australia.

Palm oil

Worldwide trade in vegetable oils totals approximately 33 million tonnes, of which 15 million tonnes are palm oil and 8 million tonnes are soybean oil.

World exports of palm oil valued about US$5 billion in 2001. Malaysia accounted for 59-70 percent of exports, followed by Indonesia with a market share of 12-24 percent (more volatile than Malaysia’s exports because the government, at times, stops exports in order to ensure an abundant supply on the local market). Among the producers, Papua New Guinea (with a 2 percent market share) is the third largest exporter, while and countries such as The Netherlands, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates are important re-exporters.

The major palm oil importer is India, which in the 1997-2001 period accounted for 15-20 percent of total world imports. It was followed by China with 8-12 percent.

NFIDC and LDC imports represent between 20-26 percent of world palm oil imports. Pakistan is among the most important importers (with imports representing between 6-11 percent of world palm oil imports), followed by Bangladesh, Kenya, Yemen, Myanmar and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Soybean oil

World export of soybean oil was estimated at about US$3 billion in 2001. The major suppliers are Argentina (with a share of 27-37 percent of world exports) and Brazil (13-18 percent), followed by the US (9-18 percent), the Netherlands (7 percent) and Germany (5-7 percent). In the latter countries, the exported soybean oil is produced from imported soybeans. India, Bangladesh, China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Peru, Venezuela, Morocco and Egypt are all large importers of soybean oil.

NFIDCs and LDCs account for about 25-38 percent of world soybean oil imports (over US$900 million in 2001). Among them, Bangladesh is the largest importer (its share in the world market fluctuated between 3 percent and 13 percent), followed by Morocco (2-4 percent), Peru, Egypt, Venezuela, Bolivia, Dominican Republic and Pakistan.

The share of the US in the more than US$10 billion value of world exports of soybeans is 50-60 percent. Most of this is exported to China, the European Union, Japan and Mexico for local processing.

NFIDCs import relatively large volumes of soybeans that are locally crushed to produce soybean meal (mainly used for animal feed) and soybean oil. This practice is largely absent in the LDCs, which do not have the necessary crushing plants, and therefore import the final products.

[19] Barbados, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Peru, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.
[20] Algeria, Egypt, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia.
[21] With the exceptions of Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Namibia, Nigeria, Congo, Seychelles, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
[22] Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

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