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Surge in wheat shipments bypassing Suez Canal

GENEVA, Switzerland – An increasing number of shipping vessels has been rerouted in the past two weeks to avoid the Suez Canal amid heightened security risks, causing a nearly 40 percent year-on-year drop in shipments of wheat through the Canal, to around 0.5 million metric tonnes, according to the WTO Wheat Dashboard.

It is estimated that around 76 million metric tonnes of grains, oilseeds and oilseed products are shipped annually from the European Union, the Russian Federation and Ukraine to Asia and Eastern Africa, representing 17 percent of global trade in those commodities.

In December 2023, around 8 percent of wheat shipments from the EU, the Russian Federation and Ukraine to selected Asian countries and Eastern Africa were delivered via routes other than the Suez Canal. This compares with an average of 3 percent before December. During the first half of January, the share of shipments using alternative routes is estimated to have surged to 42 percent.

Wheat shipments from the EU via routes other than the Suez Canal totalled 330,000 metric tonnes from the start of December to mid-January (compared to 50,000 metric tonnes during the same period last year).

Around 190,000 metric tonnes of wheat have been diverted via alternative routes from the Russian Federation over the same period (compared to zero one year ago). However, all shipments from Ukraine to the Asian and Eastern African countries cited above continued to transit via the Suez Canal during December and January.

The new data also indicates some slowdown in in world seaborne wheat imports in recent months versus the previous year, with the cumulative volume as at mid-January marginally lower year-on-year. This compares to a 17 percent year-on-year increase as of end-August 2023 and a 6 percent rise as of end-October.

Overall, world wheat trade has proved to be resilient in the face of recent market shocks, including the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Sea hostilities, with no major disruption noted in seaborne bulk shipments.

The Wheat Dashboard is an information tool developed by the WTO and the International Grain Council, launched in May 2023 as part of the international response to growing global concerns about food security. The dashboard provides comprehensive bi-weekly updates on international seaborne trade in wheat, which constitutes more than 80 percent of total traded volumes.

The Wheat Dashboard can be accessed here.



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