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Poultry Sets New Record
By Lani Jefcoat
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's poultry industry reached an all time high value of $1.5 billion in 1998 according to final figures released in late April from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In 1998, Mississippi broilers and eggs combined to bring a value of $1.5 billion, up 12 percent from 1997. Broilers saw a 12 percent increase in value to $1.4 billion and eggs increased 9 percent in value to $159 million.
Dr. Tom Smith, poultry specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the poultry industry is in better shape financially because of increased production and improved economic conditions nationwide and in Mississippi.
Nationally, Mississippi ranked No. 4 in broilers produced and No. 15 in eggs produced in 1998. Broiler production in 1999 is up 2 percent in the state and continues to increase.
"Broilers account for 85 to 90 percent of the poultry industry's income," Smith said. "We are growing larger birds and they are being used in more ways."
In the past, Mississippi had the smallest birds of the top five states, but now the average weight is 4.8 pounds. 1998 saw an increase in the weight and value of the birds produced, but not the number produced. Factors such as the weather in Mississippi may have contributed to this.
"The poultry industry in Mississippi was able to withstand the severe hot summer because of good facilities that are adapted for growing birds in hot weather," Smith said. "We were not put in a serious economic position, and drops in production were not drastic, though there were some losses."
Smith said the poultry industry competes with the other meat industries for market share, but can produce more efficiently.
"The future looks bright for the poultry industry, and the economic situation as we enter 1999 is excellent," Smith said. "In 1998, the industry made tremendous headway on profit and the market is in good shape. The industry is expanding each year because it can provide more of what people want. Our exports significantly declined but the strong domestic market made up for it."
Smith said reduced exports have hurt the industry, and exports may continue to decline if the economies of Russia and the Far East do not improve.
Dr. Tim Chamblee, associate poultry scientist with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said poultry remains the No.1 ag commodity in the state, but the industry may have to find other export markets.
"Per capita consumption has increased with the increased availability of poultry products," Chamblee said. "Export markets are volatile now. Russia has been a big buyer but since their economy has become unstable, we are not able to sell as much chicken into that market."
Mississippi exports of chicken to Russia dropped from 180 million pounds to 42 million pounds. The economies of other major importing countries are more stable.