Freshly Picked, March 26, 2020

Alerts & What’s Trending

Produce

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The avocado markets remain elevated due in a large part to short supplies from Mexico and solid demand. The avocado supply in the U.S. last week was 11% smaller than the previous week but down only slightly from last year. Avocado shipments from Mexico are anticipated to remain relatively subpar in the coming weeks. However, slack restaurant demand could weigh heavy on the avocado markets in the not-so-distant future. Tomato supplies improved modestly last week, and the tomato markets are drifting lower. Additional tomato market declines could occur in the next few weeks.

Grains

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The wheat markets have found support during the last week. Due in part to the rising value of the U.S. dollar, wheat prices in Russia have risen to a record high and the country is reported to be considering export restrictions. This could cause some market volatility during the next several months.

Dairy

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The cheese markets have declined over the last week. The butter markets are the cheapest in five years. Per the USDA, U.S. February milk production was 1.7% more than a year ago. The dairy cow herd was .2% larger (y/y) and in February cows increased by 9k head (m/m) and they adjusted January cow numbers up by 13k head. This bodes well for solid milk supplies in the coming months. Due to the implications of COVID-19, retail cheese demand has been strong but is expected to ease. The cheese markets could move counter seasonally lower in the near term. Yet, current butter prices are engaging.

Beef

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Last week’s beef production jumped sharply higher from the year prior, up 6.5%, with heavier carcasses continuing to contribute to the increases. Boxed beef prices continue to rise, with the end cuts maintaining the largest share of the increases. Strong retail buying in the spot market has been the upward price driver during the past week and a half, but higher beef prices aren’t expected to persist after the supply chain channels refill and grocery stores become fully restocked. Beef 50s prices have been struggling with retail interest for this item not being noted, but instead moving more towards the beef grinds.

Pork

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Last week’s pork production was the third largest for any week in history, jumping 11.8% year-over-year. The more retail-oriented pork cuts are getting considerable interest, while pork bellies and hams have been struggling. Picnics, butts, and ribs have all continued to experience upside price action this week, but prices may begin to cool after the retail operations re-fill. Still, pork remains the cheaper red meat option and retailers are likely to keep coffin case coolers well stocked amid escalating shelter in place protocols.

Poultry

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For the week ending March 14th, weekly chicken slaughter was 6.1% over the year prior, but ready-to-cook (RTC) output was 7.8% above a year ago. Chicken breast meat prices have been rising and exceeding seasonal increases that occur during the early spring. As with the other proteins, retail movement is supporting the chicken complex, but the wing markets are not finding support like seen for breast meat and eggs. Egg price have jumped sharply as consumers have stocked up on “at-home” staples. Large shell eggs are now pricing at their highest level for the early spring. The supply recovery across the egg market sector may be slower as current inventories are tight.

Seafood

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The shrimp markets continue to track at or below 2019 levels due in part to ample supplies. During January, the U.S. imported 19.5% more shrimp than the previous year. The inflated value of the U.S. dollar is expected to help U.S. shrimp imports in the near term. Shrimp demand is being challenged by the restrictions on restaurant operations. The near-term bigger risk in the shrimp markets is almost certainly to the downside.

Oil

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Retail gasoline prices are the cheapest since April 2016. Travel throughout the U.S. has fallen notably due to the impacts of COVID-19. Expect gasoline prices to be low for the foreseeable futures which is a silver lining for the U.S. consumer.