Flour production sets record in first half

by Neil Sosland
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WASHINGTON — Even though flour production by U.S. mills in the second quarter of 2008 decreased 0.6% from the same 2007 quarter, the January-June 2008 output aggregate still managed to set a record for those six months. The current quarter despite the reduction also ended up the third largest April-June on record. All this is according to data issued by the Bureau of the Census of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Flour output in January-June 2008 totaled a record 203,456,000 cwts, up 700,000, or 0.3%, from 202,756,000 in the first half of 2007, which was the third largest. It also was up 0.3% from 202,759,000 cwts in the first half of 2000, the previous high.

However, clouding the outlook for an eventual new output record this year, April-June production totaled 101,838,000 cwts, down 663,000, or 0.6%, from 102,501,000 a year back. It still was the third largest for a second quarter. The record was April-June 1999 at 103,463,000, followed by 2007 at 102,501,000, the current at 101,838,000 and April-June 2000 at 101,649,000. The year 2000 was one in which many recent records were set.

The April-June decrease from a year earlier ended a remarkable stretch of 11 successive quarters in which output in each quarter was above a year back. This was the longest such sequence in recent memory.

Semolina numbers in the report were down both for the quarter and for the half year. Like the overall totals, flour-ex-semolina was down for the quarter but set a record for January-June.

The Census also included 2007 summary data in the 2008 first-quarter (January-March) report issued in May.

Production and daily flour milling capacity are fully comparable with earlier data only until 2000. Prior to 2000, the Census Bureau had not included data for durum semolina output at mills connected to pasta manufacturing plants.

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

April-June output ranked as the 21st largest of any quarter on record. The record took place in October-December 2000, when U.S. mills produced 109,673,000 cwts, followed by July-September 2007 at 109,017,000, July-September 2000 at 108,838,000, October-December 1999 at 108,213,000 and October-December 2007 at 107,063,000.

Output in 32 quarters has exceeded 100 million cwts. Since the start of 2001, 17 quarters have topped the 100-million cwt mark.

As noted above, April-June 2008 was the third-largest total for the second quarter. Record output in April-June occurred in 1999 at 103,463,000 cwts, followed by the second quarter 2007 at 102,501,000, the current quarter at 101,838,000, 2000 at 101,649,000, 1997 at 99,558,000, and 2001 at 97,189,000. April-June flour production increased 0.2%, from a revised 101,618,000 in January-March 2008. The latter quarter was down 836,000 from the first quarter report issued in May. Insignificant increases or decreases between the first and second quarters have been commonplace in recent years.

 

Flour-ex-semolina reaches record

Setting a record for the first half (see below), April-June 2008 flour-ex-semolina, totaling 94,135,000 cwts, was also the third largest for the second quarter on record. The record for all quarterly flour-ex-semolina output occurred in October-December 2000 at 101,929,000, followed by July-September 2000 at 100,909,000 and July-September 2007 at 100,599,000.

April-June flour output exclusive of semolina production (flour-ex-semolina as calculated by Milling & Baking News) at 94,135,000 cwts, still was down 481,000, or 0.5%, from 94,616,000 in April 2007. It was up 5.4%, from 89,340,000 in the second quarter of 2006, and also up 5.8%, from 88,895,000 in the second quarter of 2005.

Flour output-ex-semolina was up 4.1% from 90,434,000 in April-June 2004, and up 5% from 89,694,000 in the second quarter of 2003. It was up 5.9% from 88,889,000 in the second quarter of 2002, and up 5.1% from 89,569,000 in April-June 2001, but down 0.1% from 94,269,000 in the second quarter of 2000.

Flour-ex-semolina in the second quarter of 2008 was down 0.4%, from the first.

Average monthly flour production in the second quarter was 33,946,000 cwts, compared with 33,873,000 in the first quarter and 34,107,000 in April-June 2007. Because the Census Bureau no longer compiles monthly data, these numbers are computed by dividing individual quarterly output by three.

Average flour production per working day in April-June, based on a six-day week and calculated by Milling & Baking News, was 1,323,000 cwts, up from 1,320,000 in January-March but down from 1,331,000 cwts in April-June 2007. It was the 21st-highest daily average for a quarter. The record average production per day occurred in October-December 2000 at 1,443,000 cwts, followed by July-September 2007 at 1,434,000, July-September 2000 at 1,413,000, October-December 1999 at 1,405,000, October-December 2007 at 1,390,000 and October-December 1998 at 1,383,000.

Average daily output in the second quarter was based on 77 working days, unchanged from the first quarter and from the same quarter of 2007.

Capacity third largest on record

The Census Bureau placed the 24-hour capacity of U.S. mills in the second quarter at 1,548,000 cwts, the third largest on record and up 8,000 from January-March and gaining 18,000 from the same quarter of 2007. Peak U.S. flour milling daily capacity was in April-June 2001 at 1,604,000 cwts, followed by January-March 2001 at 1,588,000, April-June 2008 at 1,548,000, July-September 2001 at 1,543,000, January-March 2008 at 1,540,000, October-December 2007 and July-September 2007 at 1,535,000 and October-December 2000 and October-December 2001 both at 1,531,000.

 

Mills operate 86.8% of six-day capacity

Based on these capacity data, U.S. mills in April-June 2008 operated at 85.4% of six-day capacity, compared with 85.7% in January-March and 87% in April-June 2007. The recent low in grind occurred in April-June 2001, at 78.7%. The latter was the slowest operating rate since April-June 1977, when it was 77.8%. The last time grind topped 90% was October-December 2000 when it was 94.3%; however, it was 89.9% as recently as July-September 2006.

Wheat grind in April-June totaled 223,830,000 bus, down 1% from 226,149,000 in the same quarter of 2007. Peak quarterly wheat grind was in October-December 2000 at 247,738,000 bus, followed by July-September 2000 at 244,685,000, and October-December 1999 at 242,175,000.

Wheat grind in April-June 2008 increased 0.1% over 223,495,000 in January-March.

Average flour extraction in April-June, as calculated by Milling & Baking News, was 75.8%, unchanged from the first quarter and up from 75.5% in the second quarter of 2007. These numbers represent a marked rebound from the recent extraction low of 73.2% in April-June 2001. The latter was the lowest extraction rate in more than 25 years. The peak for a quarter was 76.8% in July-September 1996.

Millfeed production in April-June totaled 1,696,829 tons, down 3% from 1,750,026 in the same quarter of 2007. Record millfeed production was in October-December 2000 at 1,947,407 tons, followed by July-September of that year at 1,902,206. Millfeed production in the second 2008 quarter was 1.8% above 1,667,033 in January-March.

 

January-June sets record

Setting an all-time peak for January-June, flour production in the first half of 2008 totaled 203,456,000 cwts, up 0.3% from 202,756,000 in the same six months of 2007. The second largest by an extremely small margin was 202,759,000 in January-June 2000. Output was 196,072,000 cwts in the first two quarters of 2006, 192,150,000 in 2005, 193,348,000 cwts in 2004, 192,642,000 in 2003, 192,293,000 in January-June 2002, and 196,638,000 in the first half of 2001. In addition, as noted above, 202,759,000 was the old record in January-June 2000. Average monthly flour production in the first half of 2008 was 33,909,000 cwts, compared with 33,686,000 in January-June 2007.

January-June production of flour-ex-semolina totaled a record 187,884,000 cwts, up 0.7% from 186,752,000 in the first half of 2007, the second largest since 2000. It was up 5.1% to 178,747,000 in the first half of 2006, up 6.3% from 176,802,000 in the first half of 2005, 4.4% from 179,903,000 in the first half of 2004, and up 5.7% from 177,695,000 in 2003, gaining 6.5% from 176,379,000 in January-June 2002, and up 4.2% from 180,338,000 in January-June 2001 and up 0.6% from the old record and now third largest 186,683,000 in the first six months of 2000.

Average overall flour output per working day in the first six months of 2008 was 1,322,000 cwts, against 1,317,000 in the same period of 2007. Six-day grind in the first half of 2007 comprised 154 days, unchanged from 2007.

Average rate of grind in the first half of 2008 was 85.6% of six-day capacity, down from 86.1% in January-June 2007, up from 85.5% in January-June 2006, 84.1% in January-June 2005, also up from 85% in the first half of 2004 and 83.7% in 2003.

Wheat grind in the first half of 2008 aggregated 447,325,000 bus, down 0.2% from 448,156,000 in the first half of 2007. It was 433,223,000 in the first half of 2006, 431,412,000 in the first half of 2005, 429,177,000 in the first half of 2004 and 433,183,000 in January-June 2003. The flour extraction rate for the first half of 2008 was 75.8%, against 75.4% in the first half of both 2007 and 2006, 74.3% in 2005 and 75.1% in the first half of 2004. It was 74.1% in the first half of 2003.

Millfeed production in the first half of 2008 was 3,363,862 tons, down 2.5% from 3,448,659 in the first half of 2007. It was 3,407,792 in the first half of 2006. It was 3,302,285 in 2005 and 3,329,328 in the first half of 2004.

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