WASHINGTON — Wheat flour production by U.S. flour mills in 2017 totaled 426,396,000 cwts, up 2,693,000 cwts, or 0.6%, from 423.7 million cwts in 2016, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The 24-hour capacity of U.S. flour mills for the fourth quarter was estimated at 1,620,000 cwts, unchanged from the third and a year ago and just under the record 1,621,000 cwts in April-June 2015.
Based on the NASS data, mills operated at an average of 86.1% of six-day capacity in 2017, up from 85.1% in the prior year. It was the largest since 87.4% in 2014. Utilizing the more conventional calculation based on the fourth quarter, 2017 grind was 88.4%, up from 86.7% in 2016 and the highest since 92.3% in 2013.
NASS statistics have been published for 14 consecutive quarters and three consecutive years (2015-17). While 2015-17 data were compiled by NASS, only the third and fourth quarters came from NASS in 2014. January-June data originated from a North American Millers’ Association (NAMA) panel of the largest U.S. mills and was subsequently interpolated by Milling & Baking News to make the data comparable with earlier statistics compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.
NASS also estimated 2017 semolina output at 31,799,000 cwts, up 1.5% over 31,338,000 in 2016. Production fell well short of 32,930,000 cwts in 2011 as interpolated by Milling & Baking News but also was smaller than 32,747,000 cwts in 2010 and 32,804,000 in 2007 when the Census still issued annual data. Consequently, flour production ex semolina in 2017 was estimated at a record 394,597,000 cwts, up 0.6% from 392,365,000 in 2016.According to NASS, October-December flour output totaled 108,831,000 cwts, up 0.4% from 108,392,000 in the third quarter and 0.7% above 108,080,000 a year ago. Mills operated at 88.4% of capacity in the fourth quarter, up from 86.9% in the third quarter and 86.7% a year ago.