WASHINGTON — Whole wheat flour production in 2020 totaled 20,120,000 cwts, down 10% from 22,359,000 cwts in 2019, according to data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the US Department of Agriculture.
The production total was the smallest for any year since the USDA began tracking whole wheat production data six years ago. Whole wheat flour production has now fallen three consecutive years and four of the last five. The year-to-year drop of 2,119,000 cwts in 2020 followed more modest production decreases of 104,000 cwts in 2019 and 176,000 cwts in 2018.
The trend is at odds with the advice of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which suggests at least 50% of grains intake should be in the form of whole grains. The share of total flour production accounted for by whole wheat flour in 2020 was 4.7%, down from 5.3% in 2019 and 5.2% in 2018.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, whole wheat flour production totaled 4,852,000 cwts, down 1,105,000 cwts, or 19%, from 5,957,000 cwts in the final quarter of 2019. The quarterly drop was the steepest for any quarter (versus a year earlier) since the USDA began tracking the figures. The comparison to the fourth quarter of 2019 was a tough one. Production in the year-ago quarter was the largest for any quarter since July-September 2016.
By comparison, fourth-quarter whole wheat flour production fell only modestly from the third quarter of 2020. At 4,852,000 cwts, October-December 2020 production was down 1.1% from 4,908,000 cwts in the third quarter.
Whole wheat flour accounted for 4.5% of all US flour production in the fourth quarter of 2020, the same percentage as the third quarter and down a full point from 5.5% in 2019.
Production of whole wheat semolina in 2020 totaled 616,000 cwts, down 4.3% from 644,000 cwts in 2019 and up slightly from 604,000 cwts in 2018.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, whole wheat semolina production was 147,000 cwts, down 13,000 cwts, or 8%, from 160,000 cwts in the fourth quarter of 2019. Whole wheat semolina production was up 13,000 cwts from the third quarter. Whole wheat semolina accounted for 1.8% of total semolina production in the fourth quarter, down from 1.9% during the same period a year ago and 2018 but up from 1.5% in the final quarter of 2017.
Whole wheat flour production ex-semolina was 19,504,000 cwts, down 10% from 21,595,000 cwts in 2019 and compared with 21,739,000 cwts in 2018.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, whole wheat flour production ex-semolina was 4,705,000 cwts, down 19% from 5,797,000 cwts in the last quarter of 2019. It was little changed from 4,774,000 in the third quarter. The share of flour production ex-semolina was 4.8% in the fourth quarter, down from 5.8% in the fourth quarter of 2019.