Durum semolina output in 2007 rises 2%

by Neil Sosland
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WASHINGTON — Production of straight semolina and durum flour by U.S. mills in 2007 increased to a six-year high of 32,576,000 cwts, up 2% from 31,948,000 in 2006, according to the Census Bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce. This was the largest semolina production since 32,930,000 in 2001. Output in 2007 also was up 20.8% from the recent low of 26,959,000 in 2004. It was 1.1% below the all-time record of 32,930,000 cwts in 2001.

Statistics on durum semolina issued since 2000 are not strictly comparable with earlier years because of a change in the data. Beginning in 2000, the Census Bureau said: "Prior to the first quarter 2000, these data included only establishments classified in Flour Milling, NAICS 311211. These data now include pasta manufacturers if they have and operate a flour mill on site and are producing straight semolina flour or blended semolina durum flour from flour they have milled."

The North American Millers’ Association provides funding to the Census Bureau in support of the compilation of these statistics.

At 32,576,000 cwts, semolina and durum flour output in 2007 was the fourth largest in a series dating back to 1966. The record semolina output occurred in 2001, at 32,930,000 cwts. This was followed by 1994 at 32,631,000, 1996 at 32,623,000, 2007 at 32,576,000, 1993 at 32,488,000, 2002 at 32,411,000, 1992 at 31,905,000, 2000 at 31,749,000 and 1995 at 30,964,000.

Data are not available to determine how much of the semolina output and durum grind fluctuations experienced in the 1990s reflected structural changes in the industry as durum milling capacity expanded at semolina plants. Many in the industry believe the true peak in production was in the late 1990s.

In the first year of the semolina series, 1966, production was 12,441,000 cwts, which is the low.

Suggesting at the very least some slowing in current expansion, the 2007 increase of 628,000 cwts came on the heels of an increase of 1,110,000 in 2006 and a surge of 3,879,000 in 2005. This, in turn, followed three successive annual reductions. In 2004 output was down 2,732,000 cwts, 2003 was down 2,720,000 cwts and 2002 was down 519,000. Output in 2001 was up 1,181,000 cwts. Comparing old and new numbers for 2000 shows a gain of 5,663,000. Prior to the change in 2000 and the resulting upward adjustment, semolina output had decreased three straight years.

The 1999 decrease of 970,000 cwts had been greatly overshadowed by a reduction of 2,420,000 cwts in 1998 and by the cut of 3,147,000 in 1997. Output in 1996 rose 1,659,000 cwts and in 1995 it fell 1,667,000. Industry observers attribute these decreases to the impact of increased production by captive mills at pasta plants. Some of the recent decreases were mainly due to low- and no-carbohydrate dieting, offset by a greater friendliness to pasta consumption in recent years.

Since durum semolina output was first reported separately in 1966, the total has increased in 27 years and decreased in 14. The average annual increase for this period was 491,098 cwts.

By quarters in 2006, output ranged between a high of 8,417,000 cwts in July-September and a low of 7,884,000 in April-June, while the variation in 2006 was between a high of 8,234,000 in the fourth quarter and a low of 7,713,000 in the second quarter.

Durum grind in 2007 reached a record 74,865,000 bus, up 1.7% from 73,605,000 in 2006. It compares with 67,807,000 in 2005. Grind in 2006 totaled 73,605,000 bus, followed by 2001 at 73,435,000, 1994 at 72,141,000, 2002 at 71,622,000 and 1993 at 70,575,000.

By quarters, 2007 grind ranged from 18,994,000 in July-September to 18,230,000 in April-June, while the 2006 variation was between 18,915,000 in the fourth and 17,850,000 in the second.

Based on these statistics, the weighted average extraction rate for semolina in 2007 was 72.5%, compared with 72.3% in 2006 and 75.8% in 2005. In an effort to account for the extraordinary drop in average extraction for 2006, Milling & Baking News has contacted the Census and was told there were no apparent errors in the data.

Output of straight semolina and durum flour in October-December 2007 totaled 8,013,000 cwts, down 2.7% from 8,234,000 in the fourth quarter of 2006. It also was down 4.8% from 8,417,000 in July-September.

October-December durum grind totaled 18,718,000 bus, down 1% from 18,915,000 in the same quarter of 2006. The fourth quarter was down 1.5% from 18,994,000 in July-September.

Based on these statistics, the extraction rate for October-December was 71.3%, against 73.9% in July-September and 72.6% in October-December 2006.

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