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Survey: Pork supplies steady

02/20/2012 @ 7:23am

Pork supplies in U.S. cold storage should match year-ago levels when monthly federal data are released, while beef inventories should drop slightly, analysts said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will release its cold-storage report Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. EST (2000 GMT).

Total pork inventories in U.S. commercial freezers as of Jan. 31 are expected to total 539.8 million pounds, compared with 538.8 million a year ago, according to the average prediction of three analysts in a Dow Jones Newswires survey. Estimates ranged from 533.9 million to 545.0 million pounds.

If the average prediction is correct, pork inventories grew 12% from the end of December when they stood at 481.7 million pounds.

Dan Vaught, president of Vaught Futures Insights, said he predicts total pork stocks at 545.0 million pounds, which would be a growth of 63.3 million from the previous month. He attributed the large increase to diminished export buying by China and high wholesale prices, which likely stifled domestic demand last month.

In addition, pork production in January was likely the largest in the past three years and the third largest on record, said private analyst Bob Brown, who is predicting pork stocks at 540.4 million pounds.

Analysts on average pegged ham supplies in cold storage at about 88.8 million pounds, up 33.4 million pounds from previous month. If correct, the build would have been above the five-year average of 27.1 million pounds.

In the beef sector, analysts pegged end-of-January stocks below last month and year-ago figures. They put supplies in cold storage at the end of January on average at 443 million, 4.1% below last year and 1.8% below inventories at the end of December. Estimates ranged from 435.0 million to 450.0 million pounds.

Analysts said supplies could have been affected by two competing factors as meat prices surge. Meat demand tends to slow as prices climb, but suppliers want to sell cuts rather than keep them in cold storage when the market is strong.

As for chicken, total inventories are expected at 595.2 million pounds, down 5.4% from the previous month and 22.7% below a year ago due to production cuts and the category's competitive prices compared with beef and pork. If correct, it would be the lowest since 2004, Brown said.

-By Curt Thacker, Dow Jones Newswires; 913-322-5178; curt.thacker@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 17, 2012 17:19 ET (22:19 GMT)

DJ COLD STORAGE SURVEY: Pork Inventories Seen Flat From Year Ago->copyright

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