Sluggishness worsens in whole wheat flour output

by Josh Sosland
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Whole wheat flour
The quarterly production of whole wheat flour is the smallest since at least mid-2014.

WASHINGTON — Production of whole wheat flour in April-June was 5,168,000 cwts, down 6% from January-March and down 6% from 5,513,000 cwts in the second quarter of 2015.

The whole wheat production figures, published in Flour Milling Products by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, offered the latest and strongest signal yet that U.S. demand for whole wheat flour has peaked.

At 5,168,000 cwts, the quarterly production figure was the smallest since NASS began publishing industry-wide flour production data covering the period beginning in the third quarter of 2014. The peak during this period was 6,326,000 cwts in July-September 2015. The previous low was 5,449,000 cwts in October-December 2015. Production in January-March 2016 was down 10% from the year before.

With the decline, whole wheat flour production in the second quarter of 2016 equated to 5% of total U.S. flour production, down from 5.3% in the first quarter of 2016 and down from a recent peak of 5.9% in July-September 2015.

While data prior to 2014 is not available from the U.S.D.A., whole wheat flour production rose rapidly in the 2000s, according to figures published each year by Milling & Baking News. As recently as 2002-03, whole wheat flour production accounted for only about 2% of total U.S. wheat flour production, a figure that climbed to about 5% by 2010.

Whole wheat semolina production, which has been shifting abruptly up and down from one quarter to the next, was down sharply in April-June. At 158,000 cwts, whole wheat semolina production was down 24% from January-March production and accounted for only 2.1% of all semolina production. Production was down 7% from 170,000 cwts in the second quarter last year.

Whole wheat flour production ex-durum products in April-June was 5,010,000 cwts, down 6% from 5,306,000 cwts in the first quarter of 2016. The share of total flour ex-semolina production in the second quarter was 5.2%, down from 5.5% in the first quarter. 
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