WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Whole wheat flour production tumbled in the first quarter of 2018, according to data issued May 1 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At 4.809 million cwts, production of whole wheat flour was down 902,000 cwts, or 16%, from 5.711 million cwts in the first quarter of 2018. Production was down 6.3% from 5.531 million cwts in the third quarter of 2018.

At 4.809 million cwts, first-quarter flour production was the lowest since NASS began tracking quarterly whole wheat flour production in 2014. It was the first time production fell below 5 million cwts in a quarter. The previous low was 5.14 million cwts in the first quarter of 2014. The record high for a quarter was 6.326 million cwts in the third quarter of 2015.

Whether whole wheat flour production will rebound in coming quarters remains to be, but the first quarter has not been the weakest in most years. Instead, second-quarter production was the lowest for the year in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Also at a new low in the first quarter of 2019 was whole wheat’s share of total flour production. At 4.6%, whole wheat’s share of the wheat flour market was down from 5.4% in the first quarter of 2018 and 5.1% in the fourth quarter.

Whole wheat semolina production in January-March 2019 was 150,000 cwts, down 29,000 cwts, or 16%, from 179,000 cwts in the same period in 2018. Production was down 10,000 cwts, or 6%, from the fourth quarter of 2018. Still, the semolina figure was not a new low. Semolina production has been highly volatile from one quarter to the next, slumping as low as 122,000 cwts in the past two years and beneath 150,000 cwts four times over that period.

Whole wheat semolina accounted for 1.9% of all semolina production in the first quarter, down from 2.2% in the first quarter of 2018 but unchanged from the final quarter of last year.