Freshly Picked, March 1, 2021

Alerts & What’s Trending

Produce

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The tomato markets continue to trade at fairy engaging levels for buyers.  This is despite volumes from Florida continuing to track below year ago levels.  Supplies from Mexico have helped keep a lid in prices.  That said, history suggests that tomato prices could firm in the near term.  The five-year average move for the mature green 5×6 market during the next two weeks is an increase of 9%.  Thereafter tomato prices usually move lower falling to their least expensive levels of the year during April.  Adverse weather could support onion prices.  

Grains

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The soybean complex remains firm with soybean oil trading at its most expensive level since the winter of 2013.  The South American harvest remains well behind which is significantly limiting the world supply of soybeans and soybean products.  However, the futures markets suggest a top in the soybean market may be relatively near.  

Dairy

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CME cheese block and barrel prices have been choppy lately but last week were down at least 3.2% (y/y).  CME spot butter prices finished modestly lower last week and are cheaper by 18.3% (y/y).  Per the USDA, U.S. January milk production was up 1.6% (y/y). The number of milk cows in January were up 1.0% (y/y) and were the biggest since at least 1998. The milk-per-cow yield in the month was up 0.6% (y/y). Pending strong milk output may be a headwind for higher seasonal moves for cheese and butter. But the downside risk for the cheese and butter markets may be only modest due to persistent export demand.  

Beef

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Beef production last week was active following weather-related slowdowns, with last week’s slaughter estimated at 666k head. While weekly beef output was up 7.8% from a year ago, the USDA boxed beef cutouts were higher throughout the week. Yet there was still plenty of red ink noted across some weekly average pricing so do not be surprised to see weakness occur in early March.  But anticipate imported 90s, domestic 90s and other lean trim prices to rise, with imported and domestic 90’s with the narrowest spread since September. Expect upside potential on imported beef products into the spring.

Pork

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Pork production increased last week, up 4.6% from year ago levels. Despite output being higher, the wholesale pork markets escalated, with only the belly primal notching modest losses. Still, price weakness may remerge into mid-March.  Despite the slight losses last week, belly prices in the upper $1.50’s are still 130% costlier than year ago levels. The pork trim markets were higher throughout last week, too, with both 42s as well as the 72s tacking on 4% to 6% respectively (w/w).  Both these trim markets are nearly in line with their 2014 levels.

Poultry

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Actual slaughter data for the week of the winter storms (the week ending February 20th) was worse than expected, with slaughter down 43.6% from the year prior. Last week integrators were in catch-up mode, with the initial estimate, at 180.5 million head, 6.2% larger than a year ago being the largest harvest for any week since at least 2015. Price firmness remains across the bulk of the bird, with all the ArrowStream (parts) indexes heading higher last week (w/w). The leg quarter market is moving in a pattern like the wings so far this year, tacking on more than 24% in just the past six weeks. While the upside momentum for the tender markets has slowed, demand interest remains solid and there may be further price gains felt before seasonal losses reemerge.  

Seafood

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The Alaskan Bering Sea snow crab fishing season remains slow with just 36% of the quota landed as of last Friday.  Snow crab fishing is anticipated to progress in the coming weeks and the quota this year is at a multi-year high.  This could put some downward pressure on the snow crab leg markets this spring.  However, fairly tight world snow crab supplies are anticipated to continue.

Oil

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Retail diesel fuel (ultra-low) prices last week were higher (w/w) and the costliest in 13 months. Rising crude oil prices and solid diesel fuel exports could continue to support diesel fuel prices, especially if travel activity improves.