WASHINGTON — Production of whole wheat flour in April-June fell to 4,480,000 cwts, down 791,000 cwts, or 15%, from 5,271,000 cwts in the second quarter of 2019. According to data published Aug. 3 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the US Department of Agriculture, production was down a whopping 24% from 5,904,000 cwts in the first quarter of this year.
At 4,480,000 cwts, the reported whole wheat flour production figure for the second quarter was the smallest of any quarter in the six years the USDA has been tracking the figure. During this period, production totaled between 5.1 million and 5.2 million cwts in one but never lower than that.
Production of whole wheat flour had been sagging in late 2018 and into 2019 before showing life with gains of 7.7% in the fourth quarter of 2019 (versus a year earlier) and 7.4% in the first quarter of 2020. The steep drop in the second quarter of this year raised new doubts about whether whole wheat flour demand was improving in line with nutritionist recommendations.
Whole wheat flour accounted for 4.4% of total US flour production in the second quarter, down from 5.5% in the first quarter and 5.1% a year earlier. The whole wheat flour share was a new low and marked the first time the share has slumped below 5% of total US flour production.
Year-to-date production of whole wheat flour was 10,384,000 cwts, down a modest 385,000 cwts from 10,769,000 in the first half of 2019.
Whole wheat semolina production in the second quarter was 173,000 cwts, up 39,000 cwts, or 29%, from 134,000 cwts in the second quarter last year. Production was nearly unchanged from 171,000 cwts in the first quarter of 2020. Whole wheat semolina accounted for 1.9% of all semolina production in April-June, up slightly from 1.8% in the second quarter last year but down from 2.1% in January-March. The whole wheat semolina share was depressed by a surge in semolina products in the second quarter this year.
In the first six months of 2020, whole wheat semolina production totaled 344,000 cwts, up 21% from 284,000 cwts during the first half of 2019.
Production of whole wheat flour ex-semolina in the second quarter was 4,307,000 cwts, down 830,000 cwts, or 16%, from 5,137,000 cwts a year earlier. Production was down 25% from 5,718,000 cwts in the first quarter of 2020. The share of all wheat flour excluding semolina that was whole wheat was 4.6%, compared with 5.3% during the same period a year earlier and 5.7% in January-March 2020.
Year-to-date production of whole wheat flour, ex-semolina, was 10,025,000 cwts, down 4.4% from 10,485,000 cwts in the first half of 2019.