Broiler market slow to rebound in wake of COVID-19

by George Jared ([email protected]) 545 views 

Arkansas is one of the top broiler producers in the country, and the sector has been badly battered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The poultry industry as a whole is making modest gains, but recovery into 2021 may be its slowest in nearly a decade. Economist John Anderson noted there were more complex factors at play than simple supply and demand.

Anderson is head of the agricultural economics and agribusiness department for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural Food and Life Sciences. He has been providing pandemic-related analyses of the economy since March.

“These factors include the supply-side effects of changes in production and processing operations in response to COVID-19 as well as demand-side effects related to the economic disruptions resulting from COVID-19,” he said, adding that these included “continued sluggish demand from the food service sector.”

Anderson said the price impacts of the pandemic were probably even more significant for the broiler industry than the production disruptions. In 2019, broiler wholesale prices averaged 88.6-cents per pound, according to the WASDE report.

“At the beginning of 2020, expectations were for prices to slip around 2% in the face of increasing production,” he said. “As the pandemic unfolded, though, price expectations deteriorated dramatically. The latest WASDE report projects a 2020 average broiler price of 70.8-cents per pound, a decline of about 20% compared to the prior year.”

On a positive note, broiler production has rebounded since June and Anderson said expectations for 2020 production have stabilized at about 1.5% above last year’s production.

“It is remarkable that the industry appears set to manage a modest increase in production given the magnitude of the 2020 market shock,” he said. “Still, current expectations are over 3 percent lower than in March, illustrating the significant negative impact of the pandemic on the supply side of the market.”

Current expectations as reflected in October WASDE projections are for a relatively slow recovery for the sector. The current projection for 2021 production is 45.06 billion pounds, which is up 1% from 2020, and an average wholesale price of 79-cents per pound, up 12% from last year.

“This works out to an expected wholesale value of production of $35.6 billion: a significant recovery from 2020 but still 8.5% below 2019,” he said.

“If current projections hold, 2020-2021 will witness the slowest two-year growth in broiler production since 2012-2013, when the industry faced record-breaking corn prices,” Anderson said.

Broilers are one of the top agriculture sectors in the Natural State. Arkansas ranks second in terms of broiler production, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The state produces about 7 billion pounds worth of live broiler meat each year.

Broiler production accounts for about $4.09 billion in cash receipts in Arkansas each year, the USDA reported.