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Crop report: COVID-19 concerns push turkey prices higher

Crop report: COVID-19 concerns push turkey prices higher

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Wholesale turkey prices are up and production is down amid looming uncertainty over how COVID-19 will impact traditional consumer trends this holiday season, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

David Anderson, AgriLife Extension economist, Bryan-College Station, said the turkey market has been more interesting than normal going into the holidays.

Supply, demand and the subsequent pricing and marketing of holiday turkey in 2020 appears like it could be heavily influenced by COVID-19, Anderson said. Some aspects of the market are already being affected.

On the supply side, turkey production was down 7.7% for October compared to the same time last year, Anderson said. And overall production was down 2.7% for 2020 so far compared to 2019.

Turkeys in cold storage, which are typically stocked up for the holiday rush, were down 11.5% in September, he said.

“The turkey industry has struggled with profitability and some of the trends when it comes to consumer choices around the holidays, and the consumer trends when it comes to deli meat,” he said. “You have producers trying to gauge demand and what the market will be, and that’s been difficult the last few years.”

Lower supplies have driven prices up this year, Anderson said. Wholesale turkeys — both tom, which are typically 16-24 pounds, and hen, which are 8-16 pounds — prices were 19% higher compared to last year due to tighter supplies.

Last year, wholesale turkey prices were 20% below the five-year average. Anderson said it would be interesting to see if retailers continue the practice of running specials on turkeys to draw shoppers.

But COVID-19 adds uncertainty surrounding typical holiday gatherings and the subsequent choices consumers will make this year, Anderson said.

A marketing survey by the Food Industry Association and marketing consultants the Hartman Group showed 33% of Americans will have fewer people at their traditional Thanksgiving celebrations. Around 26% of respondents said they would avoid long-distance travel.

“That’s interesting in relation to the normal demand side of all things related to these traditional holiday gatherings,” he said. “If people are scaling back, it will be interesting to see how the market for turkeys and traditional Thanksgiving dishes plays out.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

Central

The district received much-needed rain, but experienced one of the driest Octobers on record. Most counties reported adequate soil moisture levels. Winter wheat and winter forages had not emerged. Planting plans remained in limbo pending sufficient moisture for seed germination. Planting wheat into dry soil was being considered by some producers. Rains slowed cotton harvest in some areas. With good weather, producers should finish cotton harvesting within a week. Winter crops were doing well now, but some were stressing due to lack of rainfall. Livestock body conditions were good with producers feeding hay and other supplemental feeding. Stock pond levels were holding steady.

Coastal Bend

Conditions continued to dry out. Some fieldwork occurred. Cool temperatures slowed rice grain maturity for harvest. Winter forages were being planted in some areas. Rangeland and pastures continued to decline due to lack of moisture and cooler temperatures. Livestock producers in drier areas were starting to feed hay. Many producers were weaning calves and culling herds to reduce pressure on forage. Livestock auctions were reporting large runs of cattle. Some ranchers were practicing fall brush control. The pecan harvest continued with good yields reported.

East

A slow soaking rain fell across the district, giving many counties much-needed moisture. Winter forages in many areas looked better following the rain. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. A cold front that accompanied the rain dropped temperatures. Sabine County reported producers were getting ready to start feeding hay to cattle. The cattle market was up slightly. Cherokee County reported many producers were holding on to calves because of the low calf market. Livestock were in good condition. Feral hog activity was high and caused damage to many pastures and hay meadows.

Southeast

Some rain was reported. The burn ban was lifted for at least a week but may be restored without additional moisture. Cool-season forages were growing, and cool-season vegetables were starting to emerge. Some gardeners were reporting second half crops of tomatoes. Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to very short, with adequate being most common.

Southwest

Soil moisture, rangeland and pasture conditions were all declining across the district due to the lack of rainfall. Kinney County reported a half-inch of rainfall. The last hay was being cut and rolled. Some early pecan varieties were beginning to fall. Caldwell County reported cattle markets were down while sheep and goats were up. There were reports of increased predator activity. Livestock and wildlife were in fair condition with supplemental feeding. White-tailed deer pre-rut was starting.

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