WASHINGTON — Third-quarter flour production in 2019 was 106,828,000 cwts, down 1,409,000, or 1.3%, from 108,237,000 a year ago, according to data issued Nov. 1 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Production during the quarter was 2.8% greater than 103,929,000 cwts in the second quarter. The record high for the third quarter was 109,017,000 cwts in 2007, and the largest flour production quarter ever was 110,332,000 in October-December 2013.
January-September flour production totaled 314,357,000 cwts, a three-year low and down 4,796,000 cwts, or 1.5%, from a record 319,153,000 cwts a year ago.
NASS data are now available for 21 consecutive quarters, or since July-September 2014, when NASS took over from the North American Millers’ Association.
July-September marks the sixth consecutive quarter of a downward trend in the rolling four-quarter average production, beginning in the second quarter of 2018 when cumulative output for the four quarters ended June 2018 totaled a record 428,142,000 cwts. Steadily decreasing each subsequent quarter, the most recent 12-month total eroded to 422,075,000 cwts, the smallest four-quarter figure since July-September 2013.
U.S. 24-hour capacity in July-September was a record 1,674,210 cwts, up from 1,646,760 in the second quarter and 1,642,731 a year back. The prior high was 1,647,831 in January-March of this year.
Flour mill operating rate in July-September was 82.9%, up from 82% in the second quarter but down from 86.7% a year ago. The current grind was the lowest for the third quarter in recent decades. The prior July-September low was 85.1% in 1985. The January-September average grind was 82.5%, against 84.5% a year earlier.
Wheat grind in the third quarter was 231,775,000 bus, down 0.5% from 232,938,000 a year ago; it was up 3% over 225,056,000 bus in the second. Aggregate wheat grind in the first three quarters of 2019 was 680,181,000 against 686,712,000 in the same period of 2018, down 1%.
The extraction rate for July-September was 76.8%, compared with 77% in April-June and 77.4% a year ago. Extraction for the three quarters was 77% against 77.4% in January-September 2018.
Millfeed output in July-September totaled 1,659,494 tons, up 1.9% from 1,628,236 a year back. Millfeed production rose 2.5% from 1,618,622 tons in April-June. The nine-month total for millfeed in 2019 was 4,860,317 tons, up 0.6% from 4,829,669 a year ago.
Disproportionately contributing to the drop in flour output from a year ago, semolina production in July-September totaled 7,501,000 cwts, down 376,000 cwts, or 4.8%, from 7,877,000 in the third quarter of last year; it was down 1.6% from 7,622,000 cwts in April-June. January-September semolina production totaled 23,028,000 cwts, down 2.6% from 23,651,000 a year earlier, which was the highest three-quarter number since NASS began tracking flour milling production.
Durum grind in the third quarter aggregated 15,928,000 bus, down 4.5% from 16,677,000 bus a year ago. It was down 0.6% from 16,017,000 bus in April-June. January-September grind came to 48,415,000 bus, down 2.3% from 49,548,000 a year back.
Semolina mills’ rate of grind was 74.2% in July-September, down from 75.4% in the second quarter and 84% a year ago. It was the lowest figure for durum milling capacity utilization in four years, or 71.9% in April-June 2015. Extraction for the quarter came in at 78.5%. down from 79.3% in April-June and 78.7% a year back.
Flour ex semolina in July-September totaled 99,327,000 cwts, down 1,033,000, or 1%, from 100,360,000 in the third quarter of 2018. It was 3.1% over 96,307,000 in the second quarter. January-September totaled 291,329,000 cwts, down 1.5% from the record 295,502,000 in the first three quarters of 2018. It was the lowest since 290,318,000 in 2013. The second largest was 294,155,000 cwts in 2017.
Rye flour production during the third quarter of 2018 was 218,000 cwts against 204,000 in the second and 211,000 a year ago. Rye output in the nine months totaled 632,000 cwts against 670,000 a year ago.
Leading state and state groupings in third-quarter flour output included Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin turning out 11,282,000 cwts, up 2.6% from a year back. California was second at 7,916,000 cwts, up 0.8%; followed by Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington third at 7,161,000 cwts, down 11%; Kansas fourth at 7,016,000, down 4.6%; and Minnesota fifth at 6,454,000, down 5%.
With its 11% drop, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington was the only state entity to record a substantial flour production flour change in the third quarter.
The only entity again operating at more than 100% of six-day capacity was Kentucky and Tennessee, turning out 4,260,000 cwts in the quarter, up 3.2% from a year earlier, and operating at 105.4% of six-day capacity. At the other end, Minnesota produced 6,454,000 cwts, down 5.2% from July-September 2018 and operating at 69.7% of capacity, followed by Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington, 7,161,000, down 11.4% and running 73.9%.
In the quarter the most improved rate of grind was recorded in Colorado and Oklahoma, rising to 80.6% against 75.1% a year ago, just ahead of Maryland and Virginia, at 77.9% against 73.7%. At the other extreme, the operating rate in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin dropped to 83.1% from 99%, and Missouri fell to 84.4% from 97.2%.
U.S. capacity in the third quarter was up 32,579 cwts from a year earlier. The sharpest increase was 30,000 cwts in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, followed by 10,000 in Texas, 8,000 in Missouri, 1,000 in North Dakota and 100 in Minnesota. The sharpest decrease was 8,000 cwts in Idaho, Montana, Orgon, Utah and Washington, followed by 4,800 in Pennsylvania, 2,500 in Maryland and Virginia, 1,071 in California and 150 in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Capacity in July-September also was up 27,450 cwts from the second quarter. This included the 30,000 increase for Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin as well as the 150-cwt decrease for Kentucky and Tennessee. Pennsylvania was down 2,400 from the second quarter.