Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

Farm-to-Retail Price Spread Widens

Podcasts / Newsline September 8, 2020

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The COVID-19 pandemic created a record gap between what consumers pay for beef and pork and the money received by farmers.   Micheal Clements tells us how large the disparity is..

Clements: The farm-to-retail price spread is the difference between the cost a consumer pays versus what the farmer receives. American Farm Bureau Federation Economist Michael Nepveux says the pandemic drove beef and pork price spreads to record levels.

Nepveux: If you look at the farm-to-retail price spread for beef, in June it was $5.21 per-pound and that is the highest it’s been ever since the data was collected beginning back in 1970. You see a similar story in pork. So, the farm-to-retail spread for pork hit its record in June at $3.65 per-pound.

Clements: Nepveux says labor issues in meatpacking plants caused the increases.

Nepveux: What we saw back in May and June was a decline in the dollars-per-pound that farmers were receiving for their animals. This was mainly driven by the labor issues that we saw in processing plants. This was basically creating a shortage of beef and pork on the market, so you saw the increase in prices at wholesale and retail level. But, because you saw a constraint in processing capacity, which basically created an oversupply of animals on the market, that’s why you saw the decline in the prices of animals as well.

Clements: Nepveux says processing capacity appears to be getting back to normal.

Nepveux: Hopefully, we’re past the worst of it. There still is somewhat of a backlog of animals. Most people think we’re pretty close to, at least on the cattle side of things, getting those feedlots relatively current. Given everything with COVID, it’s hard to speak with any certainty, but I think we’re, at least in terms of processing capacity, mostly relatively back to normal.

Clements: Read more about the price spreads on the Market Intel page at fb.org. Micheal Clements, Washington.

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