WASHINGTON, DC, US — Third-quarter flour production in 2020 totaled 108.583 million cwts, up 1.755 million cwts, or 1.6%, from 106.828 million a year ago, according to data issued Nov. 2 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the US Department of Agriculture. Flour production was the largest for July-September in eight years, or since 2012 when it was 108.754 million cwts. Third-quarter production also exceeded any quarter since October-December 2017, at 108.593 million cwts.

With the surge in production, capacity utilization was up sharply during the third quarter. Operating rates have swung wildly from one quarter to the next since the start of the pandemic.

Production during the quarter was 6.533 million cwts, or 6.4%, greater than 102.050 million cwts in the second quarter when the coronavirus tumult impacted output after first-quarter production had soared to 107.718 million cwts in response to virus inspired stockpiling. The record high for the third quarter was 109.017 million cwts in 2007, and the largest flour production quarter ever was 110.332 million cwts in October-December 2013.

January-September flour production totaled 318.351 million cwts, an increase of 3.994 million, or 1.3%, over the three-year low of 314.357 million in the first three quarters of 2019 and down 802,000 cwts, or 0.3%, from a record 319.153 million in January-September 2018.

NASS data are now available for 25 consecutive quarters, or since July-September 2014, when NASS took over from the North American Millers’ Association.

US 24-hour capacity in July-September was 1,602,510 cwts, down 21,750 from 1,624,260 in the second quarter and down 71,700 from a record 1,674,210 a year back. It was the lowest since the fourth quarter in 2017 at 1,619,601 cwts.

Flour mill operating rate in July-September was 88%, up from 81.6% in the second quarter and 82.9% during the third quarter a year ago. It was the highest for any quarter since October-December 2017 at 88.4%. The January-September average grind was 85.4%, against 82.5% a year earlier.

Wheat grind in the third quarter was 234.199 million bushels, up 1% from 231.775 million a year ago; it was up 6.8% over 219.310 million bushels in the second quarter. Aggregate wheat grind in the first three quarters of 2020 was 686.528 million bushels against 680.181 million in the same period of 2019, up 0.9%.

 The extraction rate for July-September was 77.3%, compared with 77.6% in April-June and 76.8% a year ago. Extraction for the three quarters was 77.3% against 77% in January-September 2019.

Millfeed output in July-September totaled 1,678,897 tons, gaining 1.2% over 1,659,494 tons a year back. Millfeed production rose 7.8% from 1,557,553 tons in April-June. The nine-month total for millfeed production in 2020 was 4,883,277 tons, against 4,860,317, up 0.5%.

Semolina production in July-September totaled 8.304 million cwts, up 11% from 7.501 million cwts in the third quarter of last year. It was down 9.3% from a record 9.155 million cwts in April-June. January-September semolina production totaled a record 25.599 million cwts, gaining 11% from 23.028 million a year earlier. Output in the same three quarters of 2018 was 23.651 million cwts, which was then the highest three-quarter number since the start of NASS data.

Durum grind in the third quarter aggregated 17.509 million bushels, gaining 10% from 15.928 million bushels a year ago.  It was down coincidentally 10% from a record 19.436 million in April-June. January-September grind came to 54.261 million bushels, up 12.1% from 48.415 million a year back.

Semolina mills’ rate of grind was 81.9% in July-September, down from a recent record of 88.9% in the second quarter and 74.2% a year ago. Extraction for the quarter came in at 79%, up from 78.5% in April-June and a year back.

Flour ex-semolina in July-September totaled 100.279 million cwts, up 952,000, or 1%, over 99.327 million cwts in the third quarter of 2019. It was the largest quarter since July-September 2018 when production of flour excluding semolina was 100.360 million cwts. It was 8% over 92.895 million cwts in the second quarter. January-September totaled 292.752 million cwts, up 1.423 million, or 0.5%, from 291.329 million in the first nine months of 2019. It was down 2.750 million cwts, or 0.9%, from the record 295.502 million in the first three quarters of 2018.

Rye flour production during the third quarter of 2020 was 210,000 cwts against 159,000 in the second quarter and 218,000 cwts a year ago.  Rye output in the nine months totaled 613,000 cwts against 632,000 a year ago.

Leading state and state groupings in third-quarter flour output included Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin turning out 12.106 million cwts, up 7% from a year back.  California was second at 7.699 million cwts, down 2.7%; followed by Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington third at 7.686 million cwts, up 7%; Kansas fourth at 7.623 million, up 9%; and North Dakota at 7.125 million, up 12.4%.

New Jersey and New York followed at 6.481 million cwts; Ohio 6.303 million; Missouri 6.248 million; Texas 6.143 million; Minnesota 5.652 million; Pennsylvania 5.360 million; Kentucky and Tennessee 4.148 million; Florida, Georgia and South Carolina 4.085 million; Iowa and Nebraska 3.866 million; Colorado and Oklahoma 3.743 million; North Carolina 3.695 million; Maryland and Virginia 2.905 million and Michigan 2.486 million. All other states were 5.229 million.

With respect to significant (greater or less than 5%) July-September changes from a year earlier, North Dakota led with an increase of 12.4% followed by Ohio, 9.3%; Kansas, 8.7% and Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington, as well as Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, 7.3%. The sharpest decrease was Minnesota, down 12.4%, followed by Maryland and Virginia, 8% and Pennsylvania, 7.3%.

The only entity again operating at more than 100% of six-day capacity was Kentucky and Tennessee, turning out 4.148 million cwts in the quarter, down 2.6% from a year earlier, and operating at 102.6% of six-day capacity. At the other end, Maryland and Virginia produced 2.905 million cwts, down 8% from July-September 2019 and operating at 77.5% of capacity, followed by North Carolina, 3.695 million, down 1.5% at 78%, and Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington, 7.686 million, up 7.3% and running 78.6%.

In the quarter the most improved rate of grind from a year earlier was recorded in Minnesota rising to 91.6% against 69.7% a year ago. It was followed by Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin at 97.1%, against 83.1%; Ohio 92.6%, against 80.6% and North Dakota, 99.4%, against 88%. The one notable decrease was other states, 86.6% against 94.9%.

For many states, state groupings, wide increases in capacity utilization occurred between the second and third quarters. At the top was Kentucky and Tennessee surging to 102.6% in the third from 81.3% in the second; Minnesota 91.6% from 70.9%; North Dakota 99.4% from 85.8%; Pennsylvania 89.4% from 76.6%; New Jersey and New York 81.4% from 70.9%; Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin 97.1% from 87.5%; Michigan 81.3% from 72.2% and Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, 88.4% from 79.6%. In most instances, these swings followed severe drops in the second quarter from the first.

US capacity in the third quarter was down 71,700 cwts from a year earlier. Decreases included Minnesota, down 40,100 cwts; Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, 14,400; Pennsylvania, 7,500; Kansas, 6,000; Ohio 4,500; Florida, Georgia and South Carolina as well as Maryland and Virginia, 4,000; Colorado and Oklahoma 1,000; Iowa and Nebraska 850; California, 700; and North Dakota 400.

Capacity in all other states gained 8,600 cwts. Increases for other states and state groupings were Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington as well as New Jersey and New York, up 1,200 cwts; followed by Texas, 750. 

Capacity in July-September also was down 21,750 cwts from the second quarter. This included 14,000 decrease for Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin as well as 7,000 for Pennsylvania, 400 for North Dakota and 350 for Texas.