Broiler production is expected to expand by almost 4 percent in 2004, following a “rather anemic” 1.3 percent growth last year.

Broiler prices, as measured by the 12-City Wholesale Price, are expected to range from 68 cents to 72 cents per pound, compared to an average 62 cents last year, says Joel L. Greene, livestock analyst for USDA's World Agricultural Outlook Board.

“Strong demand for broiler meat in the domestic market, as well as increases in foreign demand for U.S. broilers, will contribute to the expected price strength,” he said at USDA's annual Agricultural Outlook Forum at Arlington, Va.

Retail broiler prices are expected to be about 5 percent higher.

Broiler meat exports are forecast to increase nearly 7 percent to about 5.3 billion pounds.

“There is a measure of stability in the export market this year that was lacking in 2003, when Russia was requiring re-certification of poultry plants and there was uncertainty surrounding their proposed quota regime,” Greene says.

For 2004, Russian imports of poultry meat are limited by an absolute quota of about 2.3 billion pounds, of which the U.S. is allocated 1.7 billion pounds. In addition, the quota regime does not require that a portion of imports be mechanically deboned meat, a stipulation that somewhat limited U.S. shipments last year.

“The U.S. shipped about 1.45 billion pounds of broiler meat to Russia in 2003, which means there is room under the quota for us to expand exports to them this year.”

Avian influenza

The outbreak of high-pathogenic avian influenza in 10 Asian countries — including Thailand and China, which are major importers of broiler meat — led to the imposition of import bans on poultry meat by major importers such as Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. Thailand and China supplied an estimated 65 percent of Japanese broiler imports, and about 50 percent of South Korea's imports, with smaller shares to other regional markets.

“The U.S. is expected to increase broiler exports to some of these markets,” Greene says, “but for the most part, Brazil is likely to gain more than the U.S. from the bans on Thai and Chinese imports.”