Editorial


COVID-19 Now and After

As of April 2nd the U.S. had exceeded 225,000 confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19 and 5,300 fatalities with as many as 20,000 incident cases reported the previous day.  The number of cases is effectively a function of the availability of test kits with rationing to those with clinical symptoms. Effectively we have no idea of the prevalence of the infection in either urban or rural communities without structured sampling for virus and serologic surveys for antibody status.  The duration of the epidemic will depend on the success of preventive measures to "flatten the curve" mainly by limiting social contact. This is necessary to prevent swamping of medical facilities with the anticipated surge in incident cases.  Epidemiologists’ models predict that the incidence rate will peak in mid- to late April based on realistic assumptions and experience gained from Asia and Europe.

Currently social distancing, quarantine for known infected individuals and contacts, avoiding travel and personal hygiene are the only applicable preventive measures.  Scientist are working on therapeutic agents and evaluating existing drugs while developing new candidates.  Scientific evaluation of the efficacy of antiviral compounds in addition to hyperimmune serum will require at least three months.  Candidate vaccines have been developed, but again proving safety and efficiency against SARS-CoV-2 and then producing vaccines in adequate quantities will require at least a year.

Since there is only recent experience with the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19 infection and given that the World's population is completely susceptible, it is possible that even if the infection is controlled by mid-summer, resurgence may occur in the fall as with seasonal influenza.  On the other hand, both SARS and MERS, both caused by related coronaviruses apparently disappeared within months of emergence as clinical entities.

The current measures to lower infection rate will have profound changes in society irrespective of the availability of therapy and vaccines.  Some of the effects of COVID-19 will include:

  • Greater emphasis on planning at the federal, state and local levels to detect and control future epidemics
  • Increased expenditure on medical disciplines including virology, immunology, epidemiology and emergency response
  • A long-term initiative to reduce the impact of predisposing factors such as obesity, diabetes and other lifestyle factors that exacerbate exposure to respiratory and systemic viruses
  • A shift in consumption of meals at home at the expense of family-casual and fine-dining restaurants. QSRs will survive providing they offer drive-through service
  • Home delivery of meals will increase in popularity. This in turn will change menu offerings since not all foods travel well, even other short distances
  • Eggs were shown to be absolute necessities as evidenced by a surge in demand from early March onwards. Hopefully this trend will continue as consumers recognize the nutritional value and competitive cost and versatility of eggs compared to other proteins.
  • With restoration of the supply-to-demand equilibrium, prices will fall sharply after the current transitory windfall
  • Enforced stay-at-home has placed greater dependence on electronic communication, for education, meetings, entertainment and completion of administrative work.  This trend will continue changing the nature of the workforce.
  • Consumers will place greater reliance on E-commerce at the expense of malls and stores.

 

The prolonged period of suboptimal margins experienced by the egg-production industry in 2019 has generated reluctance on the part of financial institutions to continue to extend working capital to inefficient producers. Banks have been hard pressed by COVID-19 as the economy has virtually shut down. Despite the transitory surge in demand for shell eggs, the business plans of applicants for loans will be carefully scrutinized before extending long-term capital for expansion and conversion to aviary systems. 

The sharp transition from restaurant dining to consuming meals at home will alter the relative volumes of shell eggs and liquid marketed.  To compensate for loss in food service, egg liquid processors will have to devise new presentations and menu items for home-meal preparation. This has implications through the entire chain of food production and distribution

Given cooperation, the application of medical science and rational decisions at the federal, state and municipal level we will prevail over COVID-19. The current year marks a transition in our society to a post epidemic era.  Nothing will ever be the same again.


 

Egg Industry News


Egg Week

USDA Weekly Egg Price and Inventory Report, April 1st 2020.

  • The U.S. flock in production was 324.5 million, down 0.4 million from the previous week .
  • Shell inventory down by 0.7 percent after three successive weekly declines reflecting unseasonal, COVID-19 driven demand and a limited population of producing hens.
  • USDA Midwest benchmark generic prices for Extra large and Large were up by 30.3 percent on average to 293.5 and 291.5 cents per dozen respectively. Mediums were up 25.4 percent to an average of 234.5 cents per dozen. The market advanced this past week after three successive weekly declines in inventory responding to exceptional COVID-19 buying. This trend should persist at the current or a lower level until Easter unless demand falls off due to consumers satisfying heightened and transitory demand. This will be indicated by a rise in inventory that has now stabilized.
  • Price of breaking stock in the Midwest was unchanged at 69.0 cents per dozen on average. Checks were unchanged at 56.5 cents per dozen. Checks are still below the USDA February 2020 benchmark nest-run production cost of 60.4 cents per dozen.

OVERVIEW

Prices

According to the USDA Egg Market News Reports posted on March 30 th 2020 the Midwest wholesale prices for Extra Large and Large as delivered to DCs were higher by 30.2 and 30.4 percent to averages of 293.5 and 291.5 cents per dozen respectively. Mediums were up 25.4 percent to 234.5 cents per dozen reflecting a restoration in balance among sizes as young flocks increase in age and heightened demand increased the value of this size. Prices should be compared with the USDA benchmark average 5-Region blended nest-run cost of 60.4 cents per dozen in February 2020, (excluding provisions for packing and transport). The progression of prices during 2018-2020 is depicted in the USDA chart reflecting three years of data, updated weekly.

The March 30th 2020 USDA Egg Market News Report (Vol. 67: No. 13) documented a USDA Combined Region value rounded to the nearest cent, of $2.33 per dozen delivered to warehouses for the week ending March 20th. This average price lags current Midwest weekly values by one week. The USDA Combined range for Large in the Midwest was $2.24 per dozen. At the high end of the range, price in the South Central Region attained $2.39 per dozen. The USDA Combined Price last week was an exceptional 123 cents per dozen above the three-year average of $1.30 per dozen and 145 cents per dozen above the price during the corresponding week in 2019.


 

COMMODITY REPORT: March 27th 2020.

Corn futures for May advanced by 0.9 percent this past week compared with the quotation on March 20th. Soybeans increased by 2.3 percent comparing the March 20th quotation for May delivery Anticipated increases in price have not occurred after signing the Phase-One trade agreement with China and ratification of the USMCA. Prospects for commodity exports to China are currently restrained by the logistic restrictions imposed by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

 

Uncertainties still include:-

  • The extent and timing of soybean purchases by China in 2020. The U.S - China Phase-One agreement signed in mid-January incorporating U.S. tariff rescissions, promised purchases of agricultural commodities, concessions on some structural issues by China and strengthened enforcement provisions
  • The market is now less optimistic that future shipments of soybeans to China will take place according to the quantities promised by the Administration after signing the Phase-One agreement. Total soybean shipments YTD have amounted to 1.13 million tons, (41.5 million bushels), approximately 22 percent of the quantity consigned during the corresponding period in 2019.
  • Justifiable uncertainty regarding the spread of COVID-19 to other Asian nations, Europe and North America with the potential to create a worldwide recession.

 

Questions still exist:-

  • Traders are reviewing projected ending stocks and taking into account the relative sizes of both corn and soybean harvests in 2019 and planting intentions for 2020. The volume of exports of soybeans to China is still uncertain.
  • Brexit is now a reality following legal departure of the U.K. from the E.U. on January 31st 2020 and a final customs break scheduled at the end of January 2021.
  • A U.S. trade agreement with the U.K. should be concluded in 2020 but trade with the U.S. will be conditioned by commitments to the E.U. by the departing nation. A bilateral agreement appears in jeopardy over disagreements over the use of Huawei communications equipment by the U.K. and chlorination used in processing of U.S. chicken.
  • The relationship with the E.U. is tenuous especially with the threat of retaliatory tariffs by the U.S. on food products from France and auto imports from Germany.

 

Compared with the March 20th 2020 close, the CME quotation for May corn posted near close of trading on March 27th was up an inconsequential 3 cents per bushel to 346 cents. May soybeans, expected to be the beneficiary of the Phase-One agreement, were up 20 cents per bushel to 883 cents, advancing 37 cents in two weeks.

 

For consecutive years 2017 through 2019 the U.S. supplied 34.4 percent of soybean requirements for China amounting to 95.5 million metric tons. This was followed by a decline to 16.9 percent of 88.5 million metric tons in 2018 and 16.6 percent of 88.0 million metric tons in 2019.

 

China placed orders for one million metric tons of soybeans from Brazil during the first week of February 2020. A total of 20.5 million metric tons has been ordered for delivery through May 2020. This quantity is equivalent to 754 million bushels or 42 percent of the projected total U.S. export of soybeans in 2020 as documented in the March 2020 WASDE #598. The purchases by China from Brazil are ascribed to competitive prices compared to the U.S. The USDA recorded exports of previously- ordered consignments amounting to132,000 tons (two shiploads) of U.S. soybeans during the week ending February 27th.

 

The following extracts from the March 31st 2020 edition of the USDA Grain Stocks Report indicate the levels of storage on farms and in fields and off-farm for corn and soybeans.

  • Corn stored in all positions on March 1st, 2020 totaled 7.95 billion bushels, down 7.7 percent from March 1 st 2019. Of the total stocks, 4.45 billion bushels are stored on farms, down 13.3 percent from a year earlier. Off-farm stocks, at 3.50 billion bushels, are up 0.5 percent from a year ago. The December 2019 through February 2020 data indicated disappearance at 3.45 billion bushels, compared with 3.32 billion bushels during the same period last year.
  • Soybeans stored in all positions on March 1 st 2019 totaled 2.25 billion bushels, down 17.4 percent from March 1st 2019. Soybean stocks stored on farms totaled 1.01 billion bushels, down 20.3 percent from a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at 1.24 billion bushels, are down 14.8 percent from March 1st 2019. Indicated disappearance for December 2019 through February 2020 totaled 1.00 billion bushels, down one percent from the same period a year earlier.

The following quotations for May were posted by the CME near close of trading on March 27th 2020 compared with values for March 20 th 2020 (in parentheses) reflecting specified months for delivery.

COMMODITY

 

Corn (cents per bushel)

May 346 (343)

July 352 (349)

Soybeans (cents per bushel)

May 883 (863)

July 888 (866)

Soybean meal ($ per ton)

May 323 (323)

July 319 (313)

Changes in the price of corn, soybeans and soybean meal over five trading days this past week were:-

COMMODITY CHANGE FROM PAST WEEK

Corn: May quotation up 3 cents per bushel           (+0.9 percent)

Soybeans: May quotation up 20 cents per bushel (+2.3 percent)

Soybean Meal: May quotation unchanged              (0 percent)

 

  • For each 10 cent per bushel change in corn:-
    • The cost of egg production would change by 0.45 cent per dozen
    • The cost of broiler production would change by 0.25 cent per pound live weight
  • For each $10 per ton change in the price of soybean meal:-
    • The cost of egg production would change by 0.44 cent per dozen
    • The cost of broiler production would change by 0.25 cent per pound live weight

 

COMMENTS

The USDA Farm Futures Survey of 728 respondents suggests that 97.3 million acres of corn and 80.6 million acres of soybeans will be planted in 2020.

Subscribers are referred to the March 11th WASDE #598 under the STATISTICS tab.

Prices of commodities are influenced by projections of ending stocks from the 2019 harvest, 2020 exports and domestic use.

USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansen speaking at the 96th Agricultural Outlook Forum indicated that U.S. agricultural commodities to the value of $14 billion would be imported by China in 2020, far short of the $40 to $50 billion per year promised by the White House in terms of the Phase-One Agreement. In the light of decreased demand in China due to COVID-19, purchases from Brazil and port congestion, now easing, the volumes suggested by Dr. Johansen may be optimistic.

During 2018 and 2019 a total of $28 billion was disbursed to the agricultural sector in Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments. Additional requests are being made by industry groups for 2020 MFP relief and these may be justified by delayed or possibly lower imports by China. President Donald Trump stated that the Federal Government would “provide additional aid to U.S. farmers as needed until recently negotiated trade deals with China, Mexico, Canada and other countries fully kick in”. MFP payments would be funded by tariff revenue representing a transfer of money from consumers to the agricultural sector.


 

JUST Announces Distribution Partnerships and Also Adult Supervision

In a company release, JUST announced partnerships to distribute their synthetic vegetable-based egg product in Latin America, the EU and East Asia.

 

Partners include SPC Samlip of South Korea, the PT Betagro Group of Indonesia and Grupo Bimbo in Latin America.  JUST has also partnered with the Eurovo Group and the PHW Group in the EU.

 

The advisory Board now includes Jacob R. Robbins, CEO of Emeterra, who was formerly an executive with Coca Cola.  Apparently JUST will distribute a concentrate that will be reconstituted, packed and sold in areas of operation. Dana Hollinger is a second addition to the Board.  She served previously with the California Public Employees Retirement System. 

 


Josh Tetrick

JUST claims that sales of its substitute egg product represents the equivalent volume of 30 million eggs over twelve months.  The figure may appear large to the uninitiated but in fact it represents a flock of 103,000 hens in constant production out of a population of 330 million or 0.4 percent of the national flock.  This is a far cry from the frequently voiced boast by Tetrick that his product would replace the entire hen population of the U.S.

 

It is questioned why Tetrick is attempting entry into markets in the EU, Latin America and Southeast Asia while his company has made little inroad into the domestic U.S market.


 

March Wholesale Egg Prices and Sales Sharply Increase According to Nielsen

Sales of shell eggs increased 44 percent for the week ending March 14th compared to the second week of March in 2019.  This was due to panic buying by consumers who are eating home-cooked meals.

 

According to Urner Barry, wholesale egg prices have risen 180 percent from extremely low levels since the end of February as confirmed by USDA data.

 

According to CNN Business representatives of some chains have complained about price increases that have been characterized as "unconscionable."  What is in fact unconscionable is the nickel and dime approach of chain buyers during successive months of relative over-supply.  Despite low wholesale prices, chains maintain shelf markups and benefit from increased margins while depressing demand to the detriment of the industry.

 

Perhaps this period of unusual demand and high prices will have created a new realization of the value of eggs among consumers. Perhaps buyers following Urner Barry quotations will not revert to demanding prices that were below cost of production during eight months of 2020.


 

Supermarkets Closed Temporarily Due to COVID-19 Diagnoses Among Workers

Trader Joe’s has announced closure of three stores located in Manhattan and Plainview, NY. and in Elkridge, MD.  Stores will be closed temporarily to allow cleaning and restocking.  Affected workers will be quarantined.  Many stores are now taking the precaution of restricting the numbers of shoppers to maintain social distancing. 

 

An employee at a Publix supermarket in Cumming, GA. tested positive for COVID-19 on March 23rd.

 

The Kroger company announced that an employee at each of a King Soopers in CO. and at a Fred Meyer store in WA. were diagnosed with COVID-19.  Implicated stores remain open but have been subject to extensive decontamination.

 

According to public health officials, the risk to shoppers is low provided that personal hygiene procedures are followed.

 

Supermarkets have increased disinfection on high-contact areas including door handles, shopping carts and touch pads. 

 

Chains throughout the U.S. are designating an hour after early opening for senior citizens and those with a predisposing health issues making them more susceptible to the effects of COVID-19.

 

It is inevitable that with an apparent escalating incidence rate of COVID-19 in the U.S., limited only by the number of tests performed, that community transmission is taking place.  Cases will be diagnosed in all domestic and commercial locations and situations in coming weeks.

 


 

Technomic Comments on Food Sales

Market research group, Technomic, forecasts a decline in sales by the food service sector ranging from 11 percent to 27 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year.  Shelter in place mandates have resulted in consumers resorting to eat-at-home, forcing QSRs to rely on takeout and drive- through, and home delivery in the case of casual and family dining establishments.

 

The trend away from restaurants was intensified during the past week with reports of greater susceptibility among the 18 to 34-year old age group and the concurrent decline in the stock market, which has eroded retirement funds.

 

The food service industry has been impacted by school districts suspending classes although in some areas, programs provide meals to needy recipients funded by USDA.

 

Technomic recommended that suppliers should be transparent with their customers, especially with regard to precautions to prevent transmission of Covid-19.  Predictions by responsible public health authorities suggest that the outbreak will persist for many weeks and accordingly suppliers should make appropriate adjustments based on lower offtake by the food service industry.


 

Lucky's Market to Divest Twenty-Three Stores and a Distribution Center

Lucky's Market currently under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection will sell twenty-three of their thirty-nine stores and a distribution center for approximately $29 million.  There were ten winning bidders including Publix supermarkets, Aldi, Southeastern Grocers, Schnuck's Markets and Dollar General.  Six stores in Colorado, Ohio, Michigan and Missouri will continue operation.  Co-founders of Lucky’s, Bo and Trish Sharon will acquire and run two locations hopefully not entitled “Winners Markets”.

 

Confirmation of the transactions will be subject to a hearing to confirm that the interests of creditors are protected.

 

The demise of Lucky's was due to the Kroger Company divesting its stake in the grocery chain acquired in April 2016. This self-serving business maneuver in Iran is generally referred to in Farsi as “pulling the rug.” Had Kroger worked to salvage the chain, employees would not have lost their jobs at a difficult time and the holding company would not be now facing a metastasis of competition. A predictable outcome of their action or inaction as the case may be.


 

Novogen Applying Electronic Monitoring of Hens in R & D and Selection

Novogen has introduced a program involving individual monitoring of hens housed in floor systems.  Research and development applying electronic monitoring records the time spent in a nest, the interval between successive eggs laid, number of nests visited, laying time in relation to environmental factors and age of the hen.  Preliminary results suggest a wide range among hens in nest-dwell time extending from a few minutes to over an hour.  The data generated by Novogen has implications for standards of nest area and design. It is interesting that the Company report notes “nest selection” Most aviary installations representing the majority of new commercial housing use either communal nests or curtained nesting areas.

 

Data collected using electronic monitoring will be applied to selection to optimize productivity of flocks and enhance egg quality.


 

FY2021 Budget Amended to Restore Funding to CDC and NIH

Previously the White House recommended cuts to the budgets of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The revised budget request adds $1.3 billion to the 2021 request for the CDC and almost $0.5 billion for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the NIH.  Both agencies are at the forefront of the “war” against COVID-19. 

 

The White House announced an immediate emergency allocation of $46 billion to allow various federal agencies to respond to the challenge of COVID-19.


 

USDA Five-Year Priorities

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated program themes for science priorities through 2025.  The intention is to increase agriculture production by 48 percent while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Areas of opportunity include:-

  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Adaptation to climate change
  • Food and nutrition
  • Innovation to add value to products
  • Establishing a policy for agricultural science

USDA Beltsville, MD.

 

Shopper Deliberately Contaminated Food in Grocery Store

In a bizarre incident, a woman deliberately and repeatedly coughed on food in a Hannaford Township, PA. supermarket.  As a result the store was obliged to remove potentially contaminated items for disposal, representing wastage valued at $35,000.  The perpetrator was arrested and is currently undergoing psychiatric examination and medical tests to determine whether she was infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus.  In addition to destroying food, Gerrity Supermarket was obliged to decontaminate the store.

 

The Department of Justice has ruled that intentional contamination of food will result in indictment under terrorism statutes since the virus causing COVID-19 meets the criteria for a “biological agent”. Threatening or deliberately spreading the virus could constitute a terrorist threat.


 

Animal Agriculture Alliance Virtual Summit

The 2020 Virtual Stakeholders Summit will be presented on May 7th, 8th preceded by a series of pre-conference webinars.  Information and registration is available at <summit.animalagalliance.org>.

Speakers will include:

  • Kay Johnson Smith, President and CEO of The Animal Agriculture Alliance discussing animal rights activists
  • Jim Naugle, Assistant Sheriff, Sonoma County on large-scale protests held on farms
  • Jim Rovers, Senior Vice-president of operations for AFIMAC on security
  • Dr. John Sancenito, president of Information Network Associates on aspects of new enforcement and security
  • Brianna Schroeder, an attorney with a specialty in agribusiness including environmental issues


Kay Johnson Smith 


 

Independent Contractors Organize Collective and Take Action Against Instacart and Amazon

The Gig Workers Collective has been created to represent the interest of workers in the shadow economy including food delivery.  Demand for home delivery has surged following stay-at-home mandates throughout the U.S.

On Monday workers for Instacart struck to protest pay and potential exposure to COVID-19.  The workers maintain that Instacart is not providing adequate protection in the form of alcohol wipes. They are demanding hazard pay and a guarantee of an additional $5 per delivery and a default tip of 10 percent of the order total.

Instacart offered fourteen days of pay for any hourly employee or full-service shopper diagnosed with COVID-19 through May 6th. Instacart intends employing an additional 300,000 Gig workers over the coming three months to maintain service in the face of increased orders. They will have to recognize the reality that even with a projected 15 percent unemployment rate in April they still will have to listen and respond to workers’ needs.


 

IFT Cancels 2020 Meeting and Expo

The Board of the Institute of Food Technologists will transition the scheduled 2020 Annual Meeting and Expo to a web format.  The event was scheduled for July 12-15 at the McCormick Place Exhibition Center in Chicago.  The cancellation is due to the anticipation that COVID-19 restrictions will apply through the middle of the year and the Institute was obliged to provide notice to the Venue and hotels. The IFT Annual Meeting usually attracts 1,100 exhibitors and 17,000 registrants.


McCormick Convention Center

 

Isolation of a Coronavirus Virus from Pangolins

A recent paper in Nature confirmed isolation from pangolins (Manis spp. or ‘scaly anteaters’) of a virus similar to SARS-CoV-2 responsible for COVID-19.  Previously work demonstrated that the agent responsible for COVID-19 was similar to a bat coronavirus.  The World Health Organization considers that the bat virus was transmitted to pangolins some of which are arboreal. It is presumed that their handling and consumption in China was responsible for transmission to humans.  In addition to being regarded as a delicacy, pangolin scales are incorporated in traditional Chinese "medicine."  A recent edict banning the housing and consumption of exotic animals and reptiles will probably not reduce the wide scale destruction of endangered pangolins given the exemption granted for "medicine" in China.

 

It is noted that SARS that emerged spontaneously in 2003 involved transmission of a bat coronavirus to humans through civets that are also consumed as a delicacy in China.


 

WHO Evaluating Alternative Potential COVID-19 Therapies

The World Health Organization has initiated the SOLIDARITY project to expedite evaluation of four prospective therapies for COVID-19. Preliminary uncontrolled studies and anecdotal reports have demonstrated the possible beneficial effect of chloroquine and remdesivir but failure of a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, used to treat HIV.  Unfortunately limitation on numbers of cases studied does not allow a definitive decision on efficacy at this time. 

 

In order to save time and concurrently allow for diverse geographic distribution and large numbers of patients the WHO SOLIDARITY approach was devised.  Physicians will recruit participants who will receive selected drugs on the basis of informed consent. Personal details and history and outcome will be entered into a WHO database.  The attending physician will select from four possible therapies depending on availability of drugs and will adhere to the local standards of care for COVID-19.  Physicians are responsible for recording whether the patient was cured or died, the duration of hospital stay and whether oxygen or ventilation was required.

 

In contrast to classic drug evaluation studies, the SOLIDARITY Program is not double-blinded, but this concession is considered necessary with the need to select an efficient agent from among the four alternative treatments comprising:-

  • Remdesivir
  • Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine
  • Lopinavir in combination with ritonavir
  • Lopinavir and ritonavir in combination with interferon-beta

 

With an enthusiastic response from physicians worldwide, in the face of an ascending incidence rate, it should be possible to generate results that will indicate possible efficacy within weeks of initiation of the study.


 

Sad Passing of Fred R. Adams Jr.

On Monday, March 30th, Cal-Maine Foods announced the sad passing of Fred R. Adams Jr, the company Founder and Chairman Emeritus on Sunday, March 29th at the age of 88 after a prolonged illness.

 

Adams who was regarded as the doyen of our industry, founded the Adams Egg Company in 1957 as the precursor of Cal-Maine Foods, that was incorporated in 1969.  He served as Chairman and CEO of the company until 2012.

 

Under his dynamic leadership, Cal-Maine Foods became the largest producer and distributor of shell eggs in the world with approximately 20 percent of the domestic U.S. market. 

 

He was active in all egg-related organizations including the United Egg Producers, U.S. Egg Marketers, Egg ClearingHouse Inc, and the Mississippi Poultry Association.


Fred R. Adams Jr.

 

Dolph Baker, Chairman and CEO of Cal-Maine Foods, commented on the pivotal role of Mr. Fred Adams to the success of Cal-Maine Foods.  Baker especially emphasized the relationship he developed with customers and fellow producers.

 

Chad Gregory, President of the United Egg Producers, among other industry notables noted the charismatic leadership of Fred Adams over decades.

 

EGG-NEWS extends condolences to Dolph and Dee Dee Baker, the Adams family, and his colleagues at Cal-Maine Foods.


 

Position Announcement: Technical Director, Eggland’s Best

Eggland’s Best LLC., the leading U.S. specialty egg producer with national production and distribution, is recruiting for the newly-created position of Technical Director. The incumbent will report to the president and will be responsible for food safety, quality assurance, production compliance and product development as a member of a professional team.

 

Qualifications include graduation as a Veterinarian with ACPV certification preferred and relevant field experience an advantage. Residence within commuting distance of the corporate office in Malvern, PA is required. Relocation assistance is available.  Approximately 25 percent travel is anticipated.

 

The position offers a competitive salary and fringe benefits. Applications attaching a CV should be addressed to Ellen Shea, Eggland’s Best LLC, at eshea@eggland.com.  Eggland’s Best is an equal opportunity employer.


 

Cal-Maine Foods Reports on Q3 FY 2020

In a press release dated March 30th Cal-Maine Foods (CALM) announced results for the 3rd Quarter of Fiscal 2020 ending February 29th.

Results for CALM, a bellwether for U.S. shell-egg production and sales, reflect lower unit revenue experienced by the entire industry resulting in unfavorable comparisons with Q3 of 2019.

The following table summarizes the results for the period compared with the values for the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal year (Values expressed as $ x 1,000 except EPS)

3rd Quarter Ending

Feb. 29th 2020

Feb. 28th 2019

Difference (%)

Sales:

$345,588

$383,992

-10.0

Gross profit:

$49,824

$82,441

-39.6

Operating income:

$5,2121

$38,1902

-86.4

Pre-tax Income

Net Income

$18,0493

$13,749

$53,4814

$39,777

-66.3

-63.44

Diluted earnings per share:

$0.28

$0.82

-65.9

Gross Margin (%)

14.4

21.5

-33.0

Operating Margin (%)

1.5

9.9

-84.9

Profit Margin (%)

5.2

10.4

-50.0

Long-term Debt:

$2,632

$858

+206.8

12 Months Trailing:

     

Return on Assets (%)

-3.7

   

Return on Equity (%)

-3.7

   

Operating Margin (%)

-5.5

   

Profit Margin (%)

-2.9

   

Total Assets

$1,117,029

$1,156,278

-3.3

Market Capitalization

$2,030,000

   

Notes:

  1. $385,000 loss on disposal of fixed assets
  2. $758,000 gain on sale of fixed assets
  3. $12.83 million “other income” including patronage payments
  4. $15.29 million “other income” including patronage payments

52-Week Range in Share Price: $30.74 to $47.00. 50-day moving average $37.34 Market Close Friday March 27th $42.40. Post release; Monday March 30th,13H00 $41.62

Approximately 31 percent of equity is held by insiders. Of the float, 15.5 percent was short on March 13th.

In reviewing the CALM quarterly report the following calculated values* represent key data for the most recent Quarter. (Q3 Fiscal 2019 and difference in parentheses):-

· Dozen shell eggs sold: 271,278,000 (271,805,000; -0.2%)

· Average selling price of all shell eggs: $1.23 per dozen; ($1.38 per dozen; -10.9%).

· Average selling price of specialty eggs calculated from data released: $1.90 cents per dozen; ($1.96 per dozen; -3.1%).

· Average selling price of generic eggs calculated from data released: $1.05 cents per dozen; ($1.21 cents per dozen; -13.2%).

· Differential between generic and specialty eggs: $0.85 cents per dozen; ($0.75 per dozen; -11.8%)

· Specialty eggs as a proportion of volume sold: 23.0%; (24.7%; -6.9%)

· Specialty eggs as a proportion of sales value: 35.0%; (35.0%; 0%)

· Proportion of eggs sold actually produced by Cal-Maine flocks: 88.1%; (81.8%; +7.5%).

· Feed cost per dozen 41 cents (42 cents; -2.4%)

*Assumes that 98 percent of sales value derived from shell eggs.

In commenting on results for the 3rd Quarter, Dolph Baker, Chairman and CEO of Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., stated, “Our results reflect more challenging market conditions than we experienced for the same period last year. However, we were pleased with our ability to execute our strategy in this environment and return to profitability for the quarter. While our sales volumes were in line with last year, our overall sales revenue was down due to the lower average selling prices compared with the same period of fiscal 2019. Since the end of the third quarter, market prices have moved significantly higher to record levels, and we expect to see continued price volatility through the end of our fiscal year.

Baker continued “An unfavorable balance of egg supply and demand continued to adversely affect market prices during the third quarter and year-to-date periods. However, hen numbers, as reported by the USDA Chickens and Eggs report on March 23, 2020, were 330.0 million, which is 11.8 million less hens than reported a year ago.

Baker concluded "We have worked hard to prepare Cal-Maine Foods to meet future customer requirements and the expected additional demand for cage-free eggs. This demand has been supported by legislation in California, Washington and Oregon requiring cage-free eggs, as well as three other states with similar laws defining minimum space requirements. We are committed to meeting the demands of our customers, and we have invested over $344 million to expand our cage-free production starting with our first facility in 2008. We are pleased with our progress to date, with expansion projects underway in Florida, Texas and Utah, which will provide significant additional processing, pullet and cage-free capacity upon completion.

“Looking ahead into the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021, we believe we are taking all reasonable precautions in the management of our operations in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. To date, Cal-Maine Foods facilities are operating normally, and we have not experienced any supply chain or delivery disruptions. Our top priority is the health and safety of our employees, who work hard every day to produce eggs for our customers. As part of the nation’s food supply, we work in a critical infrastructure industry, and we have a special responsibility to maintain our normal work schedule. As such, we are providing supplemental pay to all of our employees to assist them and their families at this critical time. We are following published guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other government health agencies in implementing procedures to protect our employees, and we have strict sanitation protocols and biosecurity measures in place throughout our operations with restricted access to visitors”.


 

U.S. Power Generation Moves to Natural Gas

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that in 2020, natural gas used to generate electricity will increase by 4 percent to 1.53 trillion kilowatt hours compared to 2019.  In contrast coal-generation will decrease 16 percent and will average 0.8 trillion kilowatt hours. Attempts to prop up the coal industry by subsidies and other artificial measures fly in the face of economic reality.  Abundant natural gas is less expensive than coal and has fewer environmental impacts.

 

The EIA predict that U.S. oil production will average 13.0 million barrels per day in 2020 falling to 12.7 million barrels in 2021.  On March 9th crude oil price fell below $35 per barrel but with an annual forecast of $43 per barrel for Brent reflecting higher supply by OPEC during 2020.  This has implications for lower fuel and transport costs benefiting the industry.


 

Commentary


Dollar Discount Stores Must Offer Fresh Foods to Avoid Restrictions

A number of jurisdictions have placed restrictions on the number of dollar-style discount stores based on what is regarded as predatory pricing and a limited range of foods.  The biggest concerns relate to the trend that proliferation of these chain stores drive small groceries out of business. This effectively deprives low-income consumers of access to fresh fruit, vegetables and perishable foods. The rise in dollar-style stores creates the phenomenon of "food deserts" since residents of these areas, frequently without transport, do not have convenient access to full-service supermarkets

 

Dollar stores are strategically located and clustered in areas with low income and also in rural areas without competition from major chains. Dollar discount stores including Dollar General and Dollar Tree, with its subsidiary Family Dollar, operate as many as 30,000 stores in the U.S. This volume represents a 10,000-unit increase over the past ten years with plans to increase units by an additional 20,000 within a decade.

 

Since stores are in the region of 7,000 square foot in extent compared to 40,000 square foot for a medium-sized Supermarket, capital costs are low favoring proliferation.  It is estimated that there are as many as 100 dollar discount stores located within a five-mile radius in moderate to low-income metropolitan areas.

 

According to a CNN Business report by Nathaniel Meyersohn, Birmingham, AL, Oklahoma City, OK, Mesquite, TX and Cleveland, OH have all introduced zoning rules that limit the location of dollar stores.

 

In response Dollar General is introducing fresh fruit and vegetables in 500 stores and is now stocking a range of "good & smart" nutritious items.  Although criticized for the limited initial approach it is evident that Dollar General and Dollar Tree will eventually provide a wider array of health foods.

 

With the advent of COVID-19 consumers are favoring smaller-format units including Aldi, and convenience stores for essentials including bread, milk and eggs.  Dollar discount stores may be a valuable outlet for eggs, making them available across a wide geographic area and specifically to lower-income consumers. 

 

Unfortunately, this may create problems of distribution given obvious logistic challenges.  Local producers may be able to service dollar-style discount stores using smaller vehicles and regular deliveries to maintain stock held in small store coolers.  Dollar stores should be regarded as a new and possibly beneficial retail channel to increase consumption.


 

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Dr. Simon M. Shane
Simon M. Shane
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