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Poultry Posts Record On Lower Production
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The poultry industry in Mississippi fared well again in 1998, retaining its top agricultural spot in the state as excellent prices boosted the projected value into record territory.
Mississippi broilers and eggs combined to bring an estimated 1998 value of $1.46 billion, up 6.6 percent from 1997. Poultry topped forestry, valued at $1.31 billion, as the state's top agricultural commodity. Broilers saw a projected 8 percent increase in value to $1.3 billion, while eggs actually declined 5 percent from 1997 to $139 million.
Dr. Tom Smith, poultry specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the overall projected value is positive because the state is growing larger chickens.
"Our number of birds is expected to be down about 2 percent, but our total pounds are going to be slightly higher than last year," Smith said.
Mississippi is forecasted to produce about 677 million broilers weighing 3.2 billion pounds. Last year the state produced 692 million broilers weighing the same total.
"Mississippi producers grew larger birds this year by about one third a pound," Smith said. "The average Mississippi broiler was 4.89 pounds, while last year the average was 4.59 pounds."
Mississippi's projected 1998 increase follows the recent trend of about a 6 percent broiler value increase each year. Smith attributed these increases to the continued expansion of the poultry industry in the state.
"Many of the states had an early increase in output starting about 15 years ago," he said. "Mississippi's growth has come later, and now our level of expansion is higher than theirs. We've held our own and should continue to expand. I don't see anything that would lead us to have a decline in production."
Prices through the year stayed strong despite pressure from a loss of exports, Smith said. The average processed broiler brought 60 cents per pound in 1998, up 4 cents from 1997.
"The international financial crisis has affected the pounds shipped overseas," Smith said. "We're still exporting, but our exports are not as high as we had projected earlier in the year. Exports to Russia have basically evaporated, and those to the Far East have declined for economic reasons, but this has not been reflected in market prices to date."
While broilers increased in both pounds produced and value, eggs experienced a temporary market downturn.
"Egg consumption stays pretty constant, and egg production does not contribute as significantly to the total income in Mississippi as does broilers," Smith said. "However, 1999 production of eggs is expected to increase slightly over 1998's."
Mike McAlpin, president of the Mississippi Poultry Association in Jackson, said the industry did much better in 1998 than in 1997.
"We had two back to back very bad years, but we had a pretty good year in 1998 up until the time the Russian economy sank," McAlpin said. "Our primary market for leg quarters had been Russia, and if that export market had not dropped off dramatically, this would have been close to a record year."
Aiding industry value this year was a decrease in the price of grain, a major part of poultry production costs.
"Grain prices fell and the demand for white meat went up. It was a perfect set of circumstances for the industry," McAlpin said.
For 1999, new markets are being sought for leg quarters, and industry officials are hoping the Russian economy stabilizes and grain production and prices will be better than projected.
"We're in a fierce race all the time with beef, pork and turkey," McAlpin said. "The thing that keeps us ahead of the others are that we offer a good-tasting, nutritious, low-cost alternative to all other meat products."