WASHINGTON – Flour production by U.S. mills in the first quarter of 2010 totaled 102,324,000 cwts, up 1.7% from 100,662,000 in January-March 2009, and the largest first-quarter output on record. This was disclosed in preliminary data issued Friday by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of the Census.

The prior January-March high was 101,382,000 cwts in 2008, followed by 2000 at 101,110,000 and 2009 at 100,662,000. The first quarter of 2007 came in at 100,255,000 cwts. These are the only times the quarter’s output exceeded 100 million cwts. The 24-hour capacity of U.S. mills was 1,535,000 cwts, up 1,000 from the fourth quarter of 2009 and 3,000 above a year back.

Mills in the first quarter operated at 87.7% of six-day capacity, against 87.8% in the fourth quarter and 86.5% in January-March 2009. Wheat grind in the 2010 first quarter amounted to 220,991,000 bus, up 1.6% from 217,607,000 a year ago.

Millfeed output in the quarter came in at 1,585,620 tons, a gain of 0.6% from 1,575,673 a year ago. Flour extraction rate in the quarter was 77.2%, against 77.1% a year ago.

Semolina output in the first quarter reached 8,266,000 cwts, up 1% from 8,188,000 last year.