WASHINGTON, DC, US — Despite softness in the fourth quarter, wheat flour production by US flour mills in 2022 reached an all-time high and posted the widest year-to-year gain in 15 years, according to data published Feb. 1 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the US Department of Agriculture.  

Flour production in 2022 totaled 430.284 million cwts, up 9.108 million cwts, or 2.2%, from 421.176 million in 2021 and up 1.1% from 425.797 million in 2020. The record production represented a solid rebound from 2021, when flour production fell to the lowest level since 420.365 million cwts in 2012.  The 9.1-million-cwt increase was the largest since flour production jumped 15.445 million cwts in 2007.

Production in 2022 was up 3.413 million cwts, or 0.8%, from the previous record of 426.871 million cwts in 2018.  

In the fourth quarter of 2022, flour output totaled 106.547 million cwts, down 3.312 million cwts, or 3%, from 109.859 million cwts in the third quarter and down 1.513 million cwts, or 1.4%, from 108.060 million cwts in October-December 2021. It was the smallest fourth-quarter aggregate in a decade, or since 106.213 million cwts of flour were milled in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The 24-hour capacity of US flour mills for the fourth quarter was estimated at 1,584,686 cwts, down 11,144 cwts from the third quarter and up 1,856 cwts from 1,582,830 a year ago. The record high for daily milling capacity was 1,674,210 cwts in July-September 2019.

Based on the NASS data, mills operated at an average of 88.4% of six-day capacity in 2022, up from 86.7% in the prior year.  Calculating utilization rates based on fourth-quarter capacity, 2022 grind was 88.4%, up from 86.7% in 2021. In the fourth quarter, mills operated at 88.5% of capacity, down from 89.4% in the third quarter and down from 88.7% a year ago.

Wheat grind in 2022 totaled 928.615 million bushels, up 1.7% from 913.380 million in 2021. The high was 944.868 million bushels in 2000. Millfeed production in 2022 aggregated 6,731,971 tons, up 1.4% from 6,639,123 in 2021. The record was 7,374,115 in 2000.

NASS statistics have been published for 34 quarters and eight consecutive years (2015-2022). While 2015-2022 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 2022 semolina output at 30.629 million cwts, up 1.5% from 30.180 million cwts in 2021.The record was 33.802 million in 2020.