WASHINGTON — Production of whole wheat flour in January-March 2023 was 4,503,000 cwts, one of the smallest totals on record, according to data issued May 1 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the US Department of Agriculture. Production was down 747,000 cwts, or 14%, from 5,250,000 cwts in the first quarter of last year.
At 4,503,000 cwts, production of whole wheat flour was the second smallest of any quarter in the eight-plus years the Department has been tracking whole wheat flour production. The first-quarter figure topped only 4,471,000 cwts in April-June 2020, considered an aberrant quarter in which bakers may have dialed back production of whole wheat bread to maximize output of standard, best-selling varieties in order to keep pace with a surge in demand associated with the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
Production of 4,503,000 cwts compares with average quarterly production of 4,789,000 cwts in 2022, 4,947,000 cwts in 2021, 5,030,000 cwts in 2020 and 5,560,000 cwts in 2019.
First-quarter production was down 5% from 4,741,000 cwts in the last three months of 2022. Whole wheat flour accounted for 4.3% of total US flour production in the first quarter, compared with 4.9% in the first quarter last year and 4.5% in the final quarter of 2022.
Whole wheat semolina production in January-March was 104,000 cwts, up 9,000 cwts, or 10%, from 95,000 cwts in the first quarter last year. Whole wheat production accounted for 1.2% of total semolina production in the first quarter, the same as a year earlier and compared with 1.5% in the fourth quarter of 2022. Quarterly production was down 13% from 120,000 cwts in October-December 2022.Production of whole wheat flour ex-semolina was 4,399,000 cwts in January-March, down 756,000, or 15%, from 5,155,000 cwts in the first quarter of last year. Production accounted for 4.7% of all wheat flour produced in the quarter ex-semolina, down from 5.2% in January-March 2022 and unchanged from the October-December share. Whole wheat flour production ex-semolina was down 5% from 4,621,000 cwts in the fourth quarter of 2022.