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Beef Proving More Profitable Than Chicken in the Pandemic

The inexpensive chicken was expected to be the pick of the proteins in the pandemic. However, suppliers with a greater focus on beef are exceeding those that rely more on poultry.

U.S. and Brazilian chicken manufacturers have been struggling amid oversupply, weak costs, and slow usage, with experts saying a production cut might be needed to prop up costs and defend margins. Beef suppliers have benefited from relatively stronger need and costs.

In the U.S., meat production has recovered from virus disruptions, implying materials are overtaking need amid still slow food-service sales. With beef output back to normal, the red meat is most likely to take on chicken for grocery-store sales.

“We are going to have this flood of red meat coming into the market,” said Peter Galbo, an expert at Bank of America, adding that retail functions for beef are expected to rise “dramatically” this autumn.

On the other hand, chicken rates are too low and need too weak to validate ads that can help create sales.

Sanderson Farms Inc., the third-biggest U.S. chicken producer, approximated recently its overall production in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020 will fall 5% from a year earlier. CEO Joe Sanderson predicted “lower need throughout the holiday season for all of our items.”

In top chicken exporter Brazil lower output or higher rates might be unavoidable to cover a sharp increase in feed expenses, said Ricardo Santin, head of exporter group ABPA.

Local corn and soy-meal rates are at all-time highs amidst strong demand and local currency weak point that enhances the appeal for exports. Corn prices must remain high amid tight supplies this year, according to Ana Luiza Lodi, an expert at StoneX in Campinas. The government is thinking about exempting imports from tariffs to decrease costs. Practically 80% of the cost of producing birds comes from a feed in the nation.

Brazilian poultry business deals with weak points in both export and regional sales. Traditional purchasers such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have minimized imports significantly this year. Export costs in August fell 20% from a year earlier.

China is the exception, with Brazil’s exports to the Asian nation climbing up 28% this year. However, China represents just 17% of Brazilian chicken exports. It’s various scenarios in beef, with shipments breaking records this year due to China, which accounts for practically 60% of Brazilian exports.

While a downturn in the Brazilian real enhances export incomes in a local currency, that hasn’t sufficed to offset higher costs, squeezing exporters’ margins since May, according to Cesar de Castro Alves, a farming consultant at Itau BBA. In August, chicken production margins were unfavorable at 5%.

The regional market hasn’t been assisting, with usage stable despite lower rates. Chicken’s discount to beef has never been larger. While the food-service need is revealing some green shoots, restaurant sales are still low and schools remained closed.

“Brazil’s chicken sector is at a crossroads, with producers increasing output amid a weak export need and increasing expenses,” Alves, from Itau BBA, said in a telephone interview. Manufacturers require lower supply in order to lift prices and go back to profitability, he stated.

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