USDA report points to plentiful holiday turkeys

Other News Materials 23 September 2008 06:51 (UTC +04:00)

There should be plenty of turkeys for this year's U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, as the U.S. Agriculture Department on Monday reported the largest supply in five years, an amount that should mean low turkey prices for the November holiday, livestock analysts said, reported Reuters.

Whole turkeys in warehouses totaled 316.1 million lbs at the end of August and frozen turkey parts were about 310 million lbs. The most since 2003.

Total turkey stocks, includes whole turkeys and turkey parts, were up 1 percent from last month and up 19 percent from a year ago.

"I suspect retailers are going to concentrate heavily on turkeys for the holiday season so I believe consumers will find good bargains for turkeys this year," said Dan Vaught, livestock analyst at Wachovia Securities.

But hams, another big holiday item, may not see the same retailer push that turkeys may receive. Despite fairly large supplies, hams have carried higher prices this year.

The supply of hams rose 10.3 million lbs in August to 141.5 million lbs, according to USDA. While down from last year's 149.1 million lbs, it topped the 10-year average of 120.4 million.

But few ham bargains are expected during the holidays because of this year's higher prices.

"Hams at Christmas may be a different story. Even though supplies are relatively high, the grocers are not going to be very aggressive in pursuing hams for the Christmas holiday so I see few bargains for them at that time," said Vaught.

"This price strength we have seen recently in the hams has largely been export driven and it (price) runs a real danger of essentially stifling holiday demand for hams, particularly with turkeys much more plentiful and cheaper," said Vaught.

Total pork supplies slipped to about 482.8 million lbs at the end of August from the 491.4 million lbs in July, USDA said. The August number was above the 458.3 million lbs a year earlier.

The total pork supply slipped from July to August despite record production and talk that pork exports were slowing.

"That's one of the things to like about this number - we were very concerned we were seeing a slowdown in exports. I had expected the August 31 pork in cold storage number to be above the July number," said Ron Plain, agricultural economist at the University of Missouri.

The 26.4 million decline in the pork belly supply from July to August to 31.8 million lbs was larger than the 10-year average decline for that period -- 16.8 million lbs.

Expectations are for steady to 0.25 cent per lb higher lean hog contracts on Tuesday and 0.250 to 0.500 cent higher pork belly futures following the USDA report.