Cost of Flour...Not Self Rising
A paltry winter wheat harvest in the nation's breadbasket has driven up the cost of flour for consumers, with more price hikes feared as drought takes a growing toll on the nation's spring wheat crop as well.
Not only is the raw ingredient more costly because of this season's short wheat crop and low stock carry-over from last year, but flour mills across the nation are having to scramble to find the classes of wheat their customers want to buy. The only bright spot is crop quality: Test weights and protein levels for winter wheat are both exceptionally good this year.
"It is kind of like the price of gas: It just keeps going up," Eustace said. "It is the same problem with flour. You got to have it, so people are going to keep buying it."
Hard red winter wheat flour — the type of flour most commonly grown in Kansas, the nation's largest wheat producer — is used for making flour for breads.
Kansas is also the nation's biggest flour milling state. Texas and Oklahoma, both major winter wheat growers, had dismal harvests this season. Winter wheat is planted in the fall and harvested in early summer.
Spring wheat types — grown primarily in more northern states where summers are not as harsh — are used to mill flour that makes its way into pasta, cakes and other baked goods.
At the Stafford County Flour Mills Co. in Hudson, President Alvin Brensing said winter wheat harvest in the area was down about a third than what is normal. But the quality of the wheat — such as protein levels and test weights — was good. He was more worried about the price his mill was paying for it this season.
Last month, the Agriculture Department forecast the Kansas wheat crop would come in at 291.4 million bushels. That would make the crop 23 percent smaller than last year's harvest.
Nationwide, the agency predicted the winter wheat harvest would be 1.26 billion bushels, 16 percent below last year. - AP