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Poultry Claims Roost Despite Lower Prices
By Laura Martin
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's poultry industry held on to the state's top agricultural spot besting last year's record value despite lower prices and decreased exports.
Poultry, the state's largest crop, should reach an estimated 1999 value of $1.55 billion, topping last year's record of $1.53 billion. It is the first and only agricultural industry in the state to top $1.5 billion in farm value.
Total broiler value increased 3 percent to $1.41 billion. Despite lower prices, poultry value increased due to an increase in broiler weight and numbers. The value of eggs dropped 10 percent to $143 million.
Dr. Wallace Morgan, head of Mississippi State University's poultry department, said poultry's total economic impact on Mississippi in 1999 is $9.76 billion. The year's overall prices are lower.
"Decreased exports and more production on the market contributed to the lower prices," Morgan said. "Grain prices also remained low which created a situation where losses for poultry companies were less."
Dr. Tom Smith, poultry specialist with MSU's Extension Service, linked lower egg prices to the temporary overproduction of eggs caused by adjustments to increased consumption.
When Russian and other Asian markets collapsed during the past several years, a large amount of U.S. products had to be sold elsewhere at a lower price.
"In years past, the United States' poultry industry was exporting about 17 percent of its total production," Morgan said. "A lot of that was going to Russia. Now, we are exporting around 5 to 6 percent of our poultry products. We may have to develop markets in other areas of the world."
Despite a decrease in exports, Mississippi's poultry industry is expected to produce 726 million broilers in 1999, Morgan said. In 1998, the state produced 722 million broilers. Mississippi is ranked No. 4 nationally in number of broilers produced.
The industry in Mississippi is still expanding and domestic consumption is increasing. The industry should continue to grow slowly until exports reach their previous levels, Morgan said.
Broiler weight increased by a quarter pound per broiler to an average of 4.9 pounds. Total weight reached 3.56 billion pounds of broiler meat. Mississippi is ranked No. 5 nationally in total pounds produced.
"The market is saturated with meat products," said Mike McAlpin, president of the Mississippi Poultry Association. "All agriculture is cyclical. Poultry is no different. Because of low demand, poultry companies are bringing down production. This will push up prices which will then cause the companies to produce more.
"People will make changes when they have to, and we'll have a good year 2000," McAlpin said.