WASHINGTON, DC, US — Wheat flour production by US flour mills in 2020 totaled 425.338 million cwts, up 3.061 million cwts, or 0.7%, from 422.277 million cwts in 2019, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the US Department of Agriculture.
Production in 2020, the third largest yearly total on record, was down 1.533 million cwts, or 0.4%, from the all-time high of 426.871 million in 2018 and 1.061 million, or 0.2%, from 426.399 million in 2017. Following these top three years all totaling 425 million cwts or more, three other recent years topped 424 million ranging from 424.950 million cwts in 2014 to 424.550 million in 2013. Output in 2015 was 424.9 million.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, flour output totaled 106.987 million cwts, down 1.596 million, or 1.5%, from 108.583 million in the third quarter and down 933,000, or 0.9%, from 107.92 million cwts in October-December 2019.
The 24-hour capacity of US flour mills for the fourth quarter was estimated at 1,580,410 cwts, down 22,100 cwts from 1,602,510 in the third and down 69,340 from 1,649,750 a year ago. The record was 1,674,210 in July-September 2019.
Based on the NASS data, mills operated at an average of 86.1% of six-day capacity in 2020, up from 83.2% in the prior year, the lowest for NASS data. Calculating utilization rates based on fourth-quarter capacity, 2020 grind was 87.4%, up from 83.4% in 2019. In the fourth quarter of 2020, mills operated at 87.9% of capacity, down from 88% in the third quarter but up from 85% a year ago.
Wheat grind in 2020 totaled 918.013 million bushels, up from 912.609 million in 2019. The high was 944.868 million in 2000. Millfeed production in 2020 aggregated 6,539,259 tons, up from 6,485,291 in 2019. The record was 7,374,115 tons in 2000.
NASS statistics have been published for 26 consecutive quarters and six consecutive years (2015-2020). While 2015-2020 data were compiled by NASS, only the third and fourth quarters of 2014 came from NASS. January-June data of that year originated from a North American Millers’ Association (NAMA) panel of the largest US mills and were subsequently interpolated by Milling & Baking News, a sister publication of World Grain, to make the data comparable with earlier statistics compiled by the US Census Bureau.
NASS also estimated 2020 semolina output at a record 33.802 million cwts, up 2.27 million, or 7.2%, from 31.532 million in 2019. It was 31.951 million cwts in 2018 and 31.799 million in 2017. Production was 32.93 million cwts in 2011 as interpolated by Milling & Baking News, but also 32.747 million cwts in 2010 and 32.804 million in 2007 when the Census still issued annual data.