WASHINGTON — For the third year in the past five, per capita disappearance of wheat flour in the United States was at 135 lbs. Considering that this per capita number was nearly the same in four other years of the 21st century, it is tempting to declare this period as one of the longest times of steadiness in per capita consumption in modern history.
For the last half of the 20th century into the final decade, per capita flour consumption was on an upward trend, with both per capita use and population expanding. Beginning at the start of the 21st century, that trend came to a sudden halt, with per capita use declining from the recent peak and total use barely holding unchanged or rising at a slower pace than population.
Data just issued by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture places 2013 per capita disappearance of wheat flour at 134.7 lbs, which rounds to 135 lbs. This was slightly up from 134.4 lbs in 2012 and was the same as in 2009 and 2010. The same per capita number also ruled recently in 2004, while 134 also occurred in several years.
To achieve this steadiness in per capita use at a time when U.S. population was still on the rise meant that total disappearance of flour had to increase year after year. Domestic disappearance in 2013 was estimated by the E.R.S. at 426,460,000 cwts, compared with 422,465,000 in 2012 and the recent low of 413,534,000 in 2011. At that low point in total disappearance, per capita use fell to 130 lbs, which was the lowest in a number of decades.
At 426,460,000 cwts in 2013, total disappearance showed an increase of just 3% from the level of 413,239,000 ruling at the start of the 21st century. It so happens that this use figure for 2000 was among the largest of recent years. In 2001, for instance, use was 402,449,000, with the 2013 aggregate up 24 million cwts from that total. The total fell to 394,082,000 in 2002, from which the current total was up 32,378,000 cwts, or 8%.
Per capita disappearance is computed by dividing the estimate of total wheat flour usage by the average monthly population. The average population in 2013 was 316,524,000, compared with 314,278,000 in 2012 and 282,298,000 at the beginning of the 21st century.
Wheat flour disappearance represents the total of U.S. flour production plus imports of flour and flour-containing products to arrive at a total supply from which exports are deducted to arrive at net usage.
The flour supply for 2013 established a new record in line with the peak in the year’s production, which the E.R.S. places at 423,214,000 cwts. Imports of flour and flour products, mainly pasta, also set a new record for the year, totaling 12,267,000 cwts, against 11,991,000 in 2012 and 11,698,000 in 2011. The total of imports in 2000 was 9,666,000 cwts.
That combination created a record-setting flour supply in the United States for 2013 of 435,481,000 cwts, against 432,356,000 in the previous year and 430,936,000 in 2000.
Exports deducted in 2013 were 5,263,000 cwts of wheat flour and 3,737,000 of products, making an export total of 9,020,000 cwts, compared with 9,891,000 in 2012 and 17,698,000 in 2010. It is only in recent years that imports of flour and flour-containing products into the United States have exceeded exports.