WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — U.S. flour production in the first quarter of 2016 aggregated a record 103.905 million cwts, up 0.8% from 103.116 million in January-March, 2015, which also was the fourth largest, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Output in the first 2016 quarter dropped 4.5% from October-December at 108.801 million. NASS data are now available for seven consecutive quarters, or since July-September 2014, when NASS took over from the North American Millers’ Association (NAMA).

While the current quarter and all the 2015 data were compiled by NASS, for 2014 only the third and fourth quarters came from NASS. January-June data originated from NAMA’s panel of the largest U.S. milling companies and subsequently interpolation by World Grain’s sister publication, Milling & Baking News, to make the data comparable with earlier statistics compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The second largest total for January-March was in 2014 at 103.824 million cwts, followed by 2012 at 103.462 million. Output in 2013 was fifth at 102.932 million. The largest first-quarter aggregate covered by the Census data was in 2010 ranking sixth at 102.532 million.

U.S. 24-hour mill capacity in January-March reached a record total of 1.618 million cwts, unchanged from the fourth quarter and up 8,000 from a year ago. Although the rounded total was unchanged from October-December the actual total was slightly off.

Flour mill operating rate in January-March averaged at 83.4% of six-day capacity, the lowest for a quarter since 78.7% in April-June 2001. It was down from 87.3% in the fourth quarter and 84.3% a year ago.

Wheat grind in January-March totaled 224.212 million bushels, down 0.5% from 225.289 million bushels a year back. It also was down 4.9% from 235.884 million bushels in the fourth quarter.

Millfeed output in the first quarter aggregated 1.595 million tonnes, down 0.3% from 1.601 million tonnes a year ago. It fell 5.2% from 1.682 million in the fourth quarter.

Semolina output in January-March totaled 7.709 million cwts, against 8,189,000 in the fourth and 7.683 million a year ago.

Rye flour output totaled 266,000 cwts in the first quarter, against 261,000 in October-December and 256,000 a year ago.