WASHINGTON — Reaching several new milestones on the downside, whole wheat flour production in 2023 totaled 17,984,000 cwts, down 6% from the year before, according to data issued Feb. 1 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the US Department of Agriculture.

Whole wheat flour production in the United States has been in a downward trend for eight years, and the 2023 total was down 25% from the recent peak of 24,115,000 cwts in 2015. Based on data from NASS, older data from the North American Millers’ Association and still older data gathered by Milling & Baking News, production of whole wheat flour was the smallest for any year since 2008-09, when production totaled 16.6 million cwts.

The decrease in production last year of 1,173,000 cwts from 2022 was among the widest in the recent past, following decreases of 631,000 cwts in 2022, 332,000 in 2021, 2,119,000 in 2020, 104,000 cwts in 2019 and 176,000 cwts in 2018.

Whole wheat flour production accounted for 4.3% of total US flour production in 2023, down from 4.5% in 2022, 4.7% in 2021 and 5.7% in the peak year of 2015.

In the fourth quarter of 2023, whole wheat flour production was 4,580,000 cwts, down 161,000 cwts, or 3.4%, from 4,741,000 cwts in the last quarter of 2022.  Production was down 0.7% from 4,612,000 cwts in the third quarter of 2023. Whole wheat flour production accounted for 4.4% of total US flour production of 105,106,000 cwts in October-December, unchanged from a year earlier and a tick higher than 4.3% in the third quarter.  Production in the fourth quarter was the smallest of any October-December period since NASS has been gathering data over 10 years.

For whole wheat semolina, production in 2023 slumped to 375,000 cwts, down 11% from 422,000 cwts in 2022 and compared with 428,000 cwts in 2021 and 469,000 in 2020. Whole wheat semolina production in 2023 accounted for 1.2% of total semolina production, down from 1.4% the year before.

In the fourth quarter, whole wheat semolina production was 76,000 cwts, down 44,000 cwts, or 37%, from 120,000 cwts in October-December 2022. It was the smallest single quarter of semolina production since NASS began collecting flour production data. Production was down 81% from the peak production quarter of 407,000 cwts in the third quarter of 2014 (a quarterly total that exceeded annual production in 2023) and down 56% from average quarterly production of 172,200 cwts between 2015-19.

Whole wheat flour production excluding semolina in 2023 was 17,609,000 cwts, down 6% from 18,735,000 cwts in 2022. Whole wheat flour accounted for 4.6% of all flour ex-semolina production last year, down from 4.7% in 2022. In the fourth quarter, flour production ex-semolina was 4,504,000 cwts, down 117,000 cwts, or 2.5%, from 4,621,000 cwts in the fourth quarter of last year. Production was up negligibly from 4,501,000 cwts in the third quarter. In October-December, whole wheat flour ex-semolina accounted for 4.6% of total flour production ex-semolina, down from 4.7% last year.