Ukraine targets wheat flour export recovery as EU steps up demand

17 Nov 2022 | Svitlana Synkovska

Ukrainian millers are targeting a recovery in wheat flour exports from the country after the Russian invasion caused volumes to fall by half, an industry group has told Agricensus.

The move reflects the growing confidence in Ukraine’s export logistics, and comes amid signs that the vital grain corridor agreement has been renewed and will run for another 120 days.

But it also reflects a recovery in domestic production capacity, after Ukrainian millers increased operational capacities due to domestic panic demand – in contrast to other domestic food producers.

That means the sector is now ready to supply to both the domestic and international market again.

“In the 2021/22 marketing year, Ukrainian wheat flour exports halved and we supplied only 71,000 mt, as a result of several factors but mostly due to the war and logistics difficulties,” Rodion Rybchynskyi, president of the industry association Union “Millers of Ukraine” told Agricensus.

“But, from the beginning of the new marketing year, Ukraine has started to boost wheat flour exports, and for July-October the country has already exported about 50% of all the volumes exported in the whole of 2021/22,” Rybchynskyi said.

Trade flows

Traditionally a significant bulk wheat supplies, Ukraine’s industry has strived to develop exports of value-added products, including wheat flour. 

By the 2018/19 and 2019/20 marketing years, the country had broken into the top ten list of flour exporters – a list perennially topped by Turkey and Kazakhstan – and was exporting around 300,000 mt a year, according to Ukraine-based analytical agency APK-Inform. 

Unlike other countries on the list, Ukraine’s milling sector had little centralized state support, but still managed to increase export volumes and widen its export reach over the last five years.

Alongside the recovery in the export volumes, Union “Millers of Ukraine” highlighted a dramatic shift in the complexion of Ukraine’s customers, as Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s export sinews forced a retreat from new customers.

Where the United Arab Emirates had been the lead buyer of Ukrainian wheat flour, going on to become a hub for the distribution of wheat flour across the Middle East, this year the essential buyers are European countries – Poland, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, and others.

“The main reason for such change was new trade routes as traders supplied wheat flour by rails, trucks or via ports of the Danube,” an exporter told Agricensus.


Generally, the Ukrainian milling industry showed strong resilience during the war, picking up a boost on the back of unprecedented - and largely panic-driven - buying demand, logistic issues, and the work of international humanitarian organizations.

From the beginning of the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s population looked to stock up on wheat flour and created additional demand, but the country’s big milling operations were not always able to supply products to all regions.

Collectively, the situation meant big milling operations worked at full capacity and also enabled dozens of smaller, regional millers to restart their activity.

A change in Russian tactics through October has meant the milling sector is facing disruption to electricity supplies, but to date the loss of power has not caused significant production outages.

Against that backdrop, the industry is looking to work with international agencies to find fresh outlets for its product.

“We now actively work with the WFP [World Food Program] to ensure the wheat flour supply inside Ukraine and plan to develop our cooperation for export activity,” Rybchynskyi said.

“The prolongation of the grain corridor hopefully will help to export more wheat flour by sea. So, we hope we will be able to export more wheat flour this season,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Turkey, the biggest global exporter of wheat flour and a key player in brokering the deal that secured the Black Sea grain export corridor, has also invested in new capacity as it consolidates its position as the world’s number one.