WASHINGTON — Production of whole wheat flour in January-March 2021 was 4,827,000 cwts, down 1,063,000 cwts, or 18%, from 5,890,000 cwts in the first quarter of 2020, according to data published May 3 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the US Department of Agriculture.

The 2021 figure was the smallest for a first quarter since quarterly data on whole wheat production has been gathered, beginning in 2014. Production in January-March was down 0.5% from 4,852,000 cwts in the fourth quarter of 2020, and a little further from 4,908,000 cwts in July-September last year.

In the first quarter of 2021, whole wheat flour production accounted for 4.7% of all US flour production, down from 5.4% in the first quarter last year but up from 4.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Whole wheat production has been severely depressed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and had been trending downward in the years leading up to the public health crisis.  In each of the past four quarters, whole wheat flour production has fallen shy of 5 million cwts. Before April-June 2020, whole wheat flour production had never fallen below 5 million cwts, had averaged 5.6 million cwts (January 2014-March 2020) and had risen as high as 6,326,000 cwts (in July-September 2015).

The trailing four-quarter average for whole wheat flour production was 19,058,000 cwts, down 1,063,000 cwts from 201,121,000 in 2020 and down 2,168,000 cwts from 21,226,000 cwts in the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2020.

Whole wheat semolina production in the first quarter of 2021 was 143,000 cwts, down 28,000 cwts, or 16%, from 171,000 cwts in the same period in 2020.  Whole wheat semolina accounted for 1.8% of all semolina production in the first quarter, the same as the fourth quarter of 2020 but down from 2.1% in the first quarter of last year.

Production of whole wheat flour ex-semolina in January-March was 4,684,000 cwts, down 18% from 5,719,000 cwts in January-March 2020. Whole wheat flour ex-semolina accounted for 4.9% of all flour ex-semolina in the  quarter, down from 5.8% a year earlier but compared with 4.8% in the fourth quarter.