Last spring, pandemic-related supply chain issues led to too little flour on supermarket shelves, just as cooped-up consumers turned to home baking for comfort. The problem was never a shortage of flour or wheat. Rather, the challenge involved a slow pivot to retail packaging, transportation and logistics delays, grocery store labor shortages, and panicked pandemic buying.
This year, there's new trouble. Historic drought conditions have already destroyed or damaged crops in the West, Northern Plains, and Southwest, key U.S. growing regions for certain types of wheat. According to a July 6 report from the USDA, approximately 98 percent of the country's spring wheat production is in an area experiencing drought conditions.
Thanks to carryover inventory from 2020, there's still plenty of wheat to go around. But the drought is just one of many factors playing havoc with the prices mills pay for wheat: Rising costs across supply chains, as well as volatile commodity grain markets exacerbated by drought conditions elsewhere in the world, are making flour more costly to produce. You may not see more expensive flour at the supermarket (though it's possible). But you'll likely pay more for loaves, pastries, and sweets at your favorite bakery.