Cattle and hog futures in Chicago rose today after Russia’s agreement to resume U.S. poultry imports signaled beef and pork producers will face less competition from chicken.
Russia agreed to end a nearly-six-month ban on U.S. poultry following talks between President Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, earlier this week. The ban, which began Jan. 1, largely cut off the U.S. from its biggest foreign poultry customer in recent years.
Stepped-up purchases by Russia may help whittle down expanding U.S. chicken supplies and provide a boost to beef and pork prices, which have slumped in the past month after surging near two-year highs earlier this spring.
“Just the idea that (chicken exports) might resume a healthy volume would certainly help us,” CME Group independent hog futures trader Martin Callaghan said today, noting that beef and pork supplies have already shrunk. “We don’t have a lot of protein in storage.”
In 2009, Russia imported U.S. broiler meat valued at $752.3 million, or about 23 percent of U.S. exports, according to USDA data. For the first four months of 2010, Russia’s imports sank to $29.5 million, down 86 percent from the same period in 2009.
Russia’s ban stemmed from a dispute over the amount of chlorine U.S. processors used to disinfect the meat. Under the agreement, the USDA will publish on its website information on which disinfectants are approved by Russia for use on poultry and other food.
Some CME traders and analysts said they needed to see more details before knowing whether the agreement would have a longer-term impact on cattle and hog prices.
Jim Clarkson, a livestock analyst with A&A Trading, wondered whether Russia would accept U.S. poultry in cold storage that had been treated with chlorine or would insist on only non-chlorine products.
“That’s a big difference,” Clarkson said. “We have all these leg quarters in the freezer. Are they going to take those, or do they need to be processed differently?”
Russia is a major buyer of chicken leg quarters, and the ban contributed to climbing U.S. chicken stockpiles this year. At the end of May, U.S. chicken supplies totaled 699.5 million pounds, up 9 percent from a year earlier, the USDA said in a report this month.
July lean hog futures today rose 0.65 cent to 80.725 cents a pound, down from 80.875 cents at the end of last week. August live cattle rose 0.3 cent to 90.95 cents a pound, up from 88.2 a week ago.
Expectations that the USDA’s Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report would reflect further contraction in the nation’s herd also contributed to bullish sentiment at CME.
Callaghan, the independent hog trader, said he wouldn’t be surprised to see signs of expansion this year for pork producers, especially if favorable growing weather this summer keeps corn prices down from previous years.
“If we don’t have any grain rallies this summer, you might see the producer toy with expansion,” Callaghan said. “The conditions are there for the farmer to expand. But will the bank let them?”