Coronavirus disrupts hay exports as first cutting begins

By Josh Callen
Josh Callen

The uncertainty around the coronavirus has rolled global markets, and U.S. forage hasn’t been immune. With the extended Chinese New Year and worker quarantine rules in China, factory output dropped off dramatically. Major ocean carriers began canceling sailings with limited product to export. This required U.S. exporters to reschedule shipments and work to find boat space for new shipments. Also, with canceled sailings, fewer empty containers are coming to the ports. At the Los Angeles/Long Beach port, operators canceled some work shifts in response to the drop in container volume. There still is demand in the major importing countries, but logistics will be a challenge.

First cutting began coming off in the Imperial Valley and in areas along the Colorado River this past week. A chance of rain this week halted most from continuing to cut. Demand from dairy buyers is good for higher quality alfalfa hay. Export buyers started getting into the market this week as the color and moisture level were meeting their specifications. Prices on Premium to Supreme alfalfa hay is $5 to $10 lower compared to this time last year. The next few weeks should give a better picture of the year-over-year price trend.

Josh Callen

Author of The Hoyt Report, providing hay market analysis and insight.