Per capita flour consumption declines for second straight year, March 23, 2010
by L. Joshua Sosland

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WASHINGTON — The Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in its Wheat Outlook issued March 12 confirmed per capita all-wheat flour consumption in the United States declined for a second consecutive year. The E.R.S. estimated 2009 per capita all-wheat flour consumption at 134.7 lbs, down 1.8 lbs from 136.5 lbs in 2008 and down 3.4 lbs from 138.1 lbs in 2007.

The E.R.S. commented, “Flour use rose for two years in a row from the recent low of 134.3 lbs in 2005 to 138.1 lbs (in 2007). This 2005 low was reached after sharp declines in per capita use from 146.3 lbs in 2000, apparently due to increased consumer interest in low-carbohydrate diets.”

The E.R.S. said the recent pattern was different for semolina and durum flour. Per capita semolina and durum flour use in the United States in 2009 was estimated at 11.5 lbs, up 0.1 lbs from 2008. At the same time, estimated per capita use was down from 12.3 lbs in 2007. The 2007 estimate was a recent high and compared with a 2004 low of 10.6 lbs per capita.

The decline in per capita all-wheat flour consumption contributed to a reduction in the U.S.D.A.’s forecast for food use of wheat in 2009-10.

The U.S.D.A. on March 10 projected domestic food use of wheat in 2009-10 at 920 million bus, down 20 million bus from the February forecast, down 7 million bus from 2008-09 and down 28 million bus from 948 million bus in 2007-08. Food use in the latter year was second only to 950 million bus in 2000-01.

The other factor in the lower forecast for food use for wheat in the current year was the higher-than-expected flour extraction rate achieved with 2009 crop wheat. The E.R.S. said, “The Census Bureau’s 2009 fourth-quarter mill grind report revealed that flour extraction rate for the first seven months of the 2009-10 marketing year was 77.1%, nearly the same as in 2008-09. Both years’ extraction rates are very high by historical standards. The average annual flour extraction rate from 1991-92 to 2007-08 is 74.6%. The highest flour extraction rate over this period was 75.9% in 1996-97. A high extraction rate means that fewer bushels of wheat need to be milled to produce a given quantity of flour.”

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