WASHINGTON — Flour production by U.S. mills in January-March reached a new record first quarter of 104,801,000 cwts, up 0.9% from previous all-time peak of 103,909,000 in January-March 2016, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While estimating first quarter production increased in 2017, the U.S.D.A. revised downward by a significant margin its estimates for 2016 flour production. In its annual flour production summary, NASS pegged 2016 outturn at 423,703,000 cwts, down 1,703,000 cwts, or 0.4%, from the preliminary 425,406,000 cwts. This, in turn, was the smallest yearly aggregate since 2012 when the total was 420,365,000. Estimated production was lowered by the U.S.D.A. in all four quarters of last year.
While a peak for the first quarter of 2017, January-March flour production was down 3% from October-December, the preceding quarter, at 108,080,000.
NASS data are now available for 11 consecutive quarters or since July-September 2014. While data back to July-September 2014 were compiled by NASS, statistics beginning with July-September 2011 through the second quarter of 2014 originated from the North American Millers’ Association (NAMA) panel of the largest U.S. mills and subsequently interpolated by Milling & Baking News to make the data comparable with earlier statistics compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.
U.S. 24-hour mill capacity in January-March was a near record 1,620,000 cwts, unchanged from the third and fourth quarters and up 4,000 from a year ago. Although the rounded total was unchanged from October-December the actual total was slightly off. The record U.S. daily milling capacity was 1,621,000 cwts in April-June 2015.
Flour mill grind in January-March averaged 85.1% of six-day capacity, up from 83.5% a year ago, which was the lowest since 78.7% in April-June 2001. First-quarter capacity utilization was down from 86.7% in the fourth quarter.
Wheat grind in January-March totaled 224,093,000 bus, down 0.1% from 224,220,000 bus a year back. It also was down 3.7% from 232,642,000 in the fourth.
Millfeed output in the first quarter aggregated 1,587,246 tons, down 0.5% from 1,595,910 a year ago. It was down 4.4% from 1,659,496 tons in the fourth quarter.
Semolina output in January-March totaled 8,079,000 cwts, against 8,554,000 in the fourth quarter and 7,709,000 a year ago.Rye flour output totaled 222,000 cwts in the first quarter, against 238,000 in October-December and 267,000 a year ago.