The U.S. Department of Agriculture reduced its broiler production forecast to 4.4 billion after recent hatchery data showed stalled growth in birds being placed for meat production, according to USDA’s latest “Livestock, Dairy & Poultry Outlook.”
Despite the reduction, year-over-year growth is still expected to be 1.7%. March year-over-year growth in placements remained below 1%, and chicks being set in trended down.
USDA economists Sean Ramos and Alex Melton reported that broiler meat production in February was 3.3 billion lb., more than 3% higher than a year earlier. Weights were up about 1.1%, and a greater flow of birds accounted for the rest of the growth, they noted.
Broiler exports in February were 552 million lb., about 1% above last year. Ramos and Melton said Taiwan and Vietnam were shipped 17 million lb. and 8 million lb. more, respectively, while Hong Kong was down 8 million lb. Mexico and Canada were each down about 3 million lb., and Chile was down 5 million lb. Georgia was up 6 million lb., and the Philippines was up 4 million lb.
The outlook reported that weekly prices for whole broilers (national composite) increased rapidly in March to almost $1.09/lb. as of March 30, gaining more than 17 cents after March 2 on a stronger-than-normal seasonal move. Ramos and Melton noted that this performance took prices to levels last seen in 2014 (during comparable weeks). Combined with reduced production expectations, strong prices led to upward revision for price forecasts to a 2018 average of 93-98 cents/lb.