WASHINGTON — Production of whole wheat flour in the third quarter of 2019 was 4,924,000 cwts, down 791,000 cwts, or 14%, from 5,715,000 cwts in the third quarter of 2018, according to data issued Nov. 1 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Third-quarter production was down 7% from 5,271,000 cwts in the second quarter. The sub-five-million-cwt quarter was the second this year. Production was 4,855,000 cwts in January-March. Before 2019, whole wheat flour production had exceeded 5 million cwts every quarter measured by NASS and topped 6 million cwts four times, the most recent of which was the third quarter of 2016. Whole wheat flour production in the latest quarter was down 19% from July-September 2016.
Consistent with the weak trend the last three quarters, the trailing four-quarter total of whole wheat flour production fell to a new low of 20,581,000 cwts. The four-quarter trailing average held fairly steady between 22 million and 23 million cwts between late 2016 and the end of 2018 but has fallen off sharply this year.
Whole wheat flour accounted for 4.6% of all U.S. flour production in the third quarter, also a new low. The share compared with 5.3% in the third quarter of 2018 and 5.1% in the second quarter this year.
Year to date, whole wheat flour accounted for 4.8% of total flour production, compared with 5.3% the first three quarters of 2018.
While still a modest number, whole wheat semolina production represented a bright spot in the quarterly report. At 200,000 cwts, whole wheat semolina production was up 65,000 cwts, or 48%, from 135,000 cwts a year earlier. Production was up 49% from 134,000 cwts in the second quarter of this year. It was the largest figure for whole wheat semolina since 209,000 cwts were milled in the first quarter of 2016.
Whole wheat semolina accounted for 2.7% of all semolina production in the third quarter, up from 1.7% in the third quarter last year and 1.8% in the second quarter of 2019.
With the strong semolina performance, whole wheat flour production ex-semolina was even weaker than overall whole wheat flour production. At 4,724,000 cwts, production of whole wheat flour ex-semolina was down 856,000 cwts, or 15%, from 5,580,000 cwts in the third quarter last year. Production was down 8% from 5,137,000 cwts in the second quarter of 2019.
Year to date, production of whole wheat flour ex-semolina was 14,566,000 cwts, down 11% from 16,368,000 cwts in the first three quarters last year.