WASHINGTON — Flour production by U.S. mills in the second quarter of 2018 totaled 105,303,000 cwts, up 835,000 cwts, or 0.8%, from 104,468,000 a year ago, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Second-quarter production was 0.3% smaller than 105,612,000 cwts in the first quarter of 2018, when quarterly output was a high for that period.

Quarterly production was 620,000 cwts, or 0.6% smaller, from the record second quarter of 105,923,000 cwts in 2014.

Intra-annual flour data suggest a gradual upward trend in flour output may be in progress. Flour production in the four quarters ending in April-June 2018 totaled 428,141,000 cwts, up 0.2% from 427,306,000 cwts in the same four quarters ending in the first and a new record high. Production in calendar year 2017 was 426,399,000 cwts. Before that, the trailing four-quarter total was 425,645,000 cwts in the period ended Sept. 30, 2017; 425,144,000 cwts through the middle of 2017; and 424,499,000 cwts in April 2016-March 2017. The upward climb has occurred in very small increments. The latter figure was 1% beneath the current high, and annual production in 2016, the year the four-quarter trend began, was 423,703,000 cwts.

With publication of second-quarter flour production, NASS reports now encompass four years of data, a total of 16 quarters, enhancing the comparability of figures from one year to the next.

Flour production in the first half of 2018 aggregated a record 210,915,000 cwts, up 0.8% from 209,173,000 cwts in the first half of 2017. It was up 0.6% from the prior six-month peak of 209,748,000 cwts in 2014.

NASS estimated 24-hour milling capacity in April-June at a new record 1,643,000 cwts, up 1,000 from 1,642,000 cwts in the first quarter and up 23,000 cwts from 1,620,000 cwts a year back.

U.S. flour mill operating rate in April-June averaged 83.2% of six-day capacity, down from 83.6% in the first quarter and 83.8% in April-June 2017. This figure reflects 77 working days in the second quarter, unchanged from the first and a year ago. The operating rate was the lowest since 78.7% recorded in April-June 2001, the lowest for any quarter in recent years although grind also was 81.3% in the first quarter of that year.

Wheat grind in April-June totaled 226,627,000 bus, down 1% from 224,487,000 in the second quarter of 2017. It was down 0.2% from 227,147,000 in the first quarter. January-June wheat grind aggregated 453,774,000 bus, gaining 1.2% over 448,451,000 a year back.

April-June extraction was 77.4%, down from 77.5% in the first quarter and 77.6% a year earlier.

Millfeed output in April-June totaled 1,594,864 tons, up 1% from 1,578,569 a year back. It was down 0.7% from 1,606,569 in the first quarter. Millfeed production in the first six months of 2018 was 3,201,433 tons, up 1.2% from 3,164,877 in January-June 2017.

Leading state and state groupings in second-quarter flour output was Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin at 10,291,000 cwts, down 2.6% from the first quarter and up 3.4% from the same period in 2017; followed by Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington at 7,957,000 cwts, up 1.9% from the first but down 0.2% from April-June 2017; third place was California, which turned out 7,918,000 cwts, up 1.1% from January-March and 3.6% over the second quarter in 2017; and Kansas was at 6,836,000 cwts, almost unchanged from 6,838,0000 cwts in the first quarter but up 3% from the year before.

With respect to 24-hour milling capacity the leader also was Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, at 146,252 cwts, unchanged from the prior quarter and a year ago. Next was Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington at 133,787 cwts, unchanged from the prior quarter but up from 131,540 cwts a year ago.

Total U.S. capacity in the second quarter was up 22,030 cwts from a year ago. Leading in increases was Ohio, gaining 6,200 cwts, followed by Minnesota, 5,100 cwts; Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, 4,000; Texas, 3,500; Maryland and Virginia, 3,000; Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, 2,247; California 1,500; Kansas, 1,100; North Dakota, 1,000; and Michigan, 500.

The sharpest decrease was Missouri, down 3,385 cwts; followed by Iowa and Nebraska, down 932 cwts; and Pennsylvania, down 200 cwts. Other states were down 500 cwts.

The only capacity change between the first and second quarters was North Dakota, up 1,000 cwts, and Minnesota, up 100, or a total U.S. gain of 1,100.

For the April-June quarter the sharpest percentage rate of grind increase over a year ago was in Pennsylvania, running 85%, against 80% in the first quarter and 81.1% a year ago. It was followed by Michigan at 95.5%, against 95% in the first quarter and 93% a year ago. The sharpest decrease was Colorado and Oklahoma operating 67.6% in the second quarter against 66.7% in the first quarter and 78.4% a year ago.

The highest rate of grind for the quarter was Kentucky and Tennessee at 98%, against 96.87% in the first quarter and 98.7% a year back. The lowest was Colorado and Oklahoma at 67.6% against 66.7% in the first quarter and 78.4% a year ago.

Durum semolina production, included in the total flour output figures, in April-June totaled 7,617,000 cwts, compared with 7,656,000 cwts a year ago, down 0.5%. It was down 6.6% from 8,156,000 cwts in the first quarter. Semolina output was 8,180,000 cwts in April-June 2011 in the last Census report.

Semolina output in January-June aggregated 15,773,000 cwts, against 15,622,000 cwts in the same 2017 period, up 1%.

Durum grind in the second quarter aggregated 15,757,000 bus, against 15,997,000 bus a year ago, down 1.5%. It was down 7.9% from 17,114,000 bus in the first. Grind in the first half was 32,871,000 bus, up 0.3% from 32,774,000 bus in the prior year. Daily 24-hour milling capacity for durum and semolina production was 123,330 cwts, unchanged from the first quarter and down from 127,047 cwts a year ago.

Durum mills in April-June operated at 80.2% of 24-hour capacity, against 79.4% in the first quarter and 79.8% a year ago.

Flour ex-semolina in April-June aggregated 97,686,000 cwts, up 0.9% from 96,812,000 cwts a year back. It was up 0.2% from 97,546,000 cwts in the first quarter. The peak for the second quarter was 99,312,000 cwts in 2015. However, January-June total was a record 195,142,000 cwts, against 193,551,000 cwts a year back, up 0.8%.

Rye flour production in the second quarter totaled 225,000 cwts, against 234,000 cwts in the first quarter and 215,000 a year earlier. The daily 24-hour milling capacity for rye milling was 9,785 cwts, unchanged from the first quarter and up from 9,385 cwts year earlier.

Flour production data before mid-2014 was gathered by Veris Consulting, Inc. on behalf of the North American’s Millers’ Association. These figures came from NAMA’s panel of the largest U.S. milling companies.