WASHINGTON — Retreating after a surge in the first quarter, flour production in the second quarter of 2020 slumped to a nine-year low of 101,911,000 cwts, down 2,018,000, or 1.9%, from 103,929,000 cwts a year ago, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was the smallest second quarter total since April-June 2011 when it was 100,313,000 cwts. The all-time high for the second quarter was 105,923,000 cwts in 2014.
April-June production was down 5,807,000 cwts, or 5%, from the first quarter at 107,718,000. The decrease was the sharpest in at least several decades between a first-quarter total and a second. The closest such slide was April-June 1990, which was down 5,246,000 cwts from January-March that year. In fact, it was the sharpest decrease between any two consecutive quarters since January-March 2014, which was down 6,508,000 cwts from the fourth quarter. Sharp drops are a seasonal norm between the fourth and first quarters; the first quarter of 1999 was down 10,432,000 cwts from the final quarter of 1998.
January-June flour output aggregated 209,629,000 cwts, up 1% over 207,529,000 in the first half of 2019. It was down 0.6% from a record 210,916,000 cwts in the first half of 2018.
The second-quarter flour figure slumped during the quarter despite a surge in semolina production. April-June semolina production totaled a record 9,133,000 cwts, up 20% from 7,622,000 in the same quarter in 2019.
US flour production ex-semolina in the second quarter was 92,778,000 cwts, down 3,529,000, or 3.7%, from 96,307,000 cwts a year ago and the smallest for any quarter since April-June 2011 when it was 92,133,000. It was down 5,807,000 cwts, or 5%, from the first quarter at 99,578,000.
NASS flour production data are now available for 24 consecutive quarters, or six full years, since July-September 2014, when NASS took over from the North American Millers’ Association.
US 24-hour capacity in April-June was 1,614,050 cwts, unchanged from the first quarter but down from 1,646,760 cwts a year back. Capacity is down about 60,000 cwts from the high of 1,674,210 in July-September 2019.
Flour mill operating rate in April-June was at 82%, down from 86.7% in the first quarter but the same as April-June 2019. The operating rate along with a year ago was the lowest for a second quarter since 78.7% recorded in April-June 2001, the lowest for any quarter in recent years.
Wheat grind in the second quarter at a nine-year low of 218,994,000 bus was down 6% from 233,019,000 in the first quarter and down 2.7% from 225,056,000 a year ago.
Millfeed output in April-June totaled 1,555,722 tons, the lowest in 29 years, or since January-March 1991 at 1,531,164. It was down 6% from 1,646,827 tons in the first quarter and down 3.9% from 1,618,622 a year ago. Millfeed output in January-June aggregated 3,202,549 tons, 0.1% over 3,200,823 a year back.
Rye flour production in the second quarter totaled 159,000 cwts, down 34.8% from 244,000 in the first quarter and down 22.1% from 204,000 a year ago.
The rolling four-quarter trend for flour production was muddled by recent violent fluctuations. The period ending in the current quarter totaled 424,377,000 cwts, down from 426,395,000 in April 2019-March 2020, reflecting the surge in the first quarter. The 2019 total for flour production at 422,277,000 cwts was slightly up from the low of 422,075,000, hinting at stability but overshadowed by what followed. The all-time high was 428,142,000 cwts set in the 12 months ended in June 2018.
Leading state and state groupings in second-quarter flour output again was Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin at 10,953,000 cwts, down 6.1% from the first quarter but up 12.7% from a year ago; followed by California at 7,657,000, down 6.3% from the first quarter and 3% from a year back; Kansas at 7,489,000, up 4.1% from the first and 5.2% over a year ago; Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington at 7,129,000, down 9.1% from the first quarter but up 0.2% from a year ago; fifth, Missouri at 6,722,000, gaining 8.1% over the first quarter and as much as 18.6% over a year ago. Ohio second-quarter production was 6,298,000 cwts; North Dakota, 6,176,000; Texas, 5,737,000; New Jersey and New York, 5,640,000; Minnesota, 5,099,000; Pennsylvania, 5,038,000; Iowa and Nebraska, 3,909,000; Colorado and Oklahoma, 3,700,000; North Carolina, 3,568,000; Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, 3,530,000; Kentucky and Tennessee, 3,285,000; Maryland and Virginia, 2,733,0000 and Michigan, 2,208,000.
Other states totaled 5,040,000 cwts.
With respect to 24-hour milling capacity the leader again was Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, at 146,252 cwts, unchanged from the prior quarter and a year ago. It was followed by Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington at 125,787 cwts, unchanged from the revised first-quarter total but down from 133,787 a year ago.
Total US capacity in the second quarter was down 32,710 cwts from a year ago. The only increase was Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, 16,300. The sharpest decrease was Minnesota, 26,760 cwts, followed by Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, 6,400; Kansas, 6,000; Ohio, 4,500; Maryland and Virginia, 4,000; Pennsylvania, 2,400 and Kentucky and Tennessee, 150.
Capacity in the second quarter was unchanged from the first quarter.
For the April-June quarter the sharpest percentage rate of grind increase over a year ago was in Missouri running 94.1%, against 87% in the first quarter and 79.3% a year ago. It was followed by Ohio at 92.5%, against 87.4% in the first quarter and 81.7% a year ago; Kansas at 87.5% against 84.1% in the first quarter and 79% a year ago; Colorado and Oklahoma, 81.1%, against 76.3% in the first quarter and 74.3% a year ago; and Iowa and Nebraska, 89.5%, against 90.4% in the first quarter and 84.2% in April-June 2019. The sharpest decrease was Michigan at 72.2%, down from 76.9% in the first quarter and 91.8% a year ago, followed by Kentucky and Tennessee at 81.3%, against 106.3% in the first quarter and 95.9% a year ago.
The highest rate of grind for the quarter was Missouri at 94.1% and Minnesota tied with New Jersey and New York for the lowest at 70.9%.
Flour production excluding semolina in April-June fell to a nine-year low of 92,778,000 cwts, down 3,529,000, or 3.7%, from 96,307,000 a year back. It was the smallest ex-semolina flour figure since 92,133,000 cwts in the second quarter of 2011. It was down 5.4% from 99,578,000 in the first quarter. The peak for any quarter was 101,664,000 in October-December 2013.
January-June flour production excluding semolina was 192,356,000 cwts, up 0.2% from 192,002,000 a year back. The record was 195,142,000 cwt two years ago.
Rye flour production in the second quarter totaled 159,000 cwts, against 244,000 in the first quarter and 204,000 a year earlier. Rye grind in April-June was 333,000 bus, against 524,000 in the first quarter and 414,000 a year back. The daily 24- hour milling capacity for rye milling was 9,785 cwts, unchanged from the first quarter and a year earlier.
Flour production data before mid-2014 was gathered by Veris Consulting, Inc. on behalf of NAMA. These figures came from NAMA’s panel of the largest US milling companies. The figures were subsequently interpolated by Milling & Baking News to estimate total US flour production in an effort to make the data comparable with earlier statistics compiled by the US Census Bureau.