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Pork prices at risk as virus spreads

In this weekly Commodities Watch column, John T. Barone, president and commodities analyst for Market Vision Inc., offers a snapshot of the state of commodities for restaurants.

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv), the disease that kills young piglets, is showing no signs of abating. The most recent data from National Animal Health Lab shows the number of new cases is still increasing. The potential for a smaller hog herd in 2014 has injected some risk premium into prices.

While PEDv lingers, the Easter ham market is quickly approaching. Hams that weigh 20-23 pounds are already running 30 percent above year-ago levels, at $0.95 per pound (USDA). Hog futures closed at a record high $106.85 per hundredweight on Friday, 32 percent above a year ago, and the forward contract for June is trading at $112.22.

Meanwhile, live cattle futures keep on setting record highs, closing at $151.95 per hundredweight on Friday. That’s an increase of 18.7 percent from a year ago and 41.7 percent above the five-year average. Higher-than-expected beef and pork prices are expected to put upward pressure on poultry prices as buyers look for lower-cost protein alternatives.

Contact John T. Barone at [email protected].

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