WASHINGTON, DC, US — Whole wheat flour production in 2021 was 19.964 million cwts, down 157,000 cwts , or 0.8%, from 20.121 million cwts in 2020, according to data issued Feb. 1 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the US Department of Agriculture. The annual figure was the smallest since NASS began tracking whole wheat flour (and all flour) production data in 2014.
Since peaking in 2015 at 24.115 million cwts, annual production of whole wheat flour has fallen 4.151 million cwts, or 17%. Whole wheat flour production held in a steady range of 22.2 million to 22.6 million cwts in the four years ended 2019, before falling to just over 20 million cwts in 2020 and just under 20 million cwts in 2021.
At 19.964 million cwts, whole wheat flour accounted for 4.7% of total US flour production in 2021, the same percentage as in 2020 and down from 5.3% in 2019. The share of US flour production accounted for by whole wheat peaked in 2015 at 5.7%.
While down for the year, whole wheat flour production appeared poised for an even steeper drop before fourth-quarter production figures were issued. In January-September 2021, whole wheat flour production was down 3.7% from the same period in 2019.
Accounting for the partial recovery was a production rebound in October-December. At 5.264 million cwts, whole wheat flour production in the fourth quarter was up 412,000 cwts, or 9%, from 4.852 million cwts in the fourth quarter of 2020. Production was smaller than 5.957 million cwts in the final quarter of 2019 and 5.531 million cwts in October-December 2018.
Whole wheat flour production accounted for 4.9% of total flour production in the fourth quarter of 2021, up from 4.7% in the third quarter and 4.5% in the fourth quarter of 2019.
While trends were weak in total whole wheat flour production in 2021, the same was not true for whole wheat semolina. Production of whole wheat semolina in 2020 was 883,000 cwts, up 4.7% from 616,000 cwts in 2020. Whole wheat semolina production was 644,000 in 2019 and 604,000 cwts in 2018. The 883,000-cwt total was the highest since NASS began tracking the figure.
The 2021 figure was boosted by a surge in fourth-quarter production. October-December 2021 production of whole wheat semolina was 355,000 cwts, up 208,000 cwts, or 142%, from 147,000 cwts in the fourth quarter of 2020. It was the second consecutive quarter of strong whole wheat semolina production. Third-quarter production was 238,000 cwts, up 78% from a year earlier.
The fourth-quarter production figure was the highest since NASS began collecting the data, and third-quarter whole wheat semolina production was the largest since the third quarter of 2015, when production was 339,000 cwts.
Production of whole wheat flour ex-semolina in 2020 was 19.081 million cwts, down 2.2% from 19.505 million cwts in 2020 and compared with 21.595 million in 2019 and 21.739 million in 2018. In the fourth quarter, whole wheat flour ex-semolina production was 4.909 million cwts, up 204,000 cwts, or 4.3%, from 4.705 million cwts in the fourth quarter of 2020. Fourth-quarter production was up 3.7% from 4.736 million cwts in the third quarter of 2021.