By Meredith Davis
Jan 31 Tyson Foods Inc, the largest U.S.
meat processor, said on Friday it expects pork supplies to drop
2 to 4 percent this fiscal year, raising wholesale prices, as a
deadly pig virus spreads through the U.S. hog belt.
Heavier hogs will offset some of the loss in headcount, Jim
Lochner, Tyson's chief operating officer, said during a
conference call after the company's quarterly earnings release.
Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), a highly contagious
and potentially fatal pig virus, has contributed to higher hog
prices, which are beginning to eat into pork processors'
profits. Average prices for live sows surged 28 percent in the
last year, according to USDA figures.
"I do want to emphasize information does come out fairly
regularly ... and we're just staying on top of it region to
region, producer to producer," Lochner said, referring to the
spread of the disease.
Industry analysts estimate up to 4 million may have died
from the virus, but there are no official figures for pig
fatalities from the disease. The U.S. hog herd stood at 65.9
million head as of December 2013, U.S. Department of Agriculture
PEDv was first discovered in April 2013 in the United
States, the world's the largest pork exporter, and has spread to
23 states and Canada. Transmitted orally and through pig feces,
the disease causes diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration in
the animals, but does not affect humans.
Older pigs have a chance of survival, but the virus kills 80
to 100 percent of piglets that are infected.
Tyson also said it was monitoring the number of sows
affected by the virus.
Based in Springdale, Arkansas, Tyson reported quarterly net
income of $254 million, or 72 cents per share, up from $173
million, or 49 cents per share, a year earlier, beating analysts
Shares of Tyson were up nearly 10 percent at $37.89 in
afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Hillshire Brands Co, the Chicago-based maker of
Jimmy Dean sausages and Ball Park hot dogs, said on its earnings
call on Thursday that it was watching the spread of the virus
and its effect on sow prices.