Quarterly flour output down; year to date still record

by Neil Sosland
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WASHINGTON — Flour production by U.S. mills in the third quarter of 2013 totaled 106,598,000 cwts, down 2% from 108,754,000 cwts in the same quarter of 2012. Even with the decrease, year-to-date production held at the record first established at the six-month mark.

Output for the first three quarters of 2013 aggregated 314,429,000 cwts, up a hair from 314,152,000 cwts in the first nine months of 2012. These figures were based on data gathered by Veris Consulting, Inc. on behalf of the North American Millers’ Association. Because Veris collects production statistics from milling companies representing 95.1% of U.S. capacity (down from 95.4% in 2012 and earlier), Milling & Baking News has interpolated the figures to make the time series comparable to Census Bureau figures gathered in earlier years from the entire industry.

Based on the Veris data alone, flour production in July-September was 101,375,000 cwts, down 2.3% from 103,750,000 in the same quarter of 2012. It was up 1.6% from 99,759,000 cwts in April-June. Veris estimated 24-hour capacity of U.S. mills at 1,476,485 cwts, up 0.8% from a downward revised capacity of 1,464,480 a year back.

Looking at production trends over the past 12 months, output from October 2012 through September 2013 was a near record 420,642,000 cwts (third highest), falling shy of the record high of 422,797.000 cwts in July 2012-June 2013 as well as the established January-December peak  of 421,270,000 cwts in 2000. These numbers indicate that in order for 2013 to set a new official record the forthcoming October-December interpolated total must exceed the fourth quarter of 2012 by 628,000 cwts, dimming the earlier prospect for a high.

Flour mills in the United States operated at 89.2% of six-day capacity in July-September, up from 87.9% in the second quarter but down from 93.2% in the third quarter of 2012. Six-day week runs included 77 days in July-September, April-June and a year ago. Mills in the first three quarters operated at an average of 88.5% of six-day capacity, compared with 89.4% in the prior year.
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