US Poultry Bans Continue Amid Bird Flu Decline

USAgNet - 07/28/2023

US poultry producers are experiencing prolonged economic challenges due to lingering trade bans on poultry exports, despite several months passing without any bird flu infections in flocks. These bans were imposed last year to prevent the spread of the avian flu and have created constraints on the $6 billion US poultry export market. Alongside the trade restrictions, poultry producers are also grappling with limited labor, lower chicken prices, and uncertain costs for feed.

The Chinese market is particularly significant for US poultry companies like Pilgrim's Pride, as it is the primary destination for products like chicken feet, which are not commonly consumed in the US. However, China, along with South Africa and the Dominican Republic, continues to maintain bans on poultry from 37 states that previously reported bird flu infections.

Mexico, the top overall market for American poultry meat, has largely lifted its trade bans, although certain regions in a few states, such as Colorado and Washington, still face restrictions.

China's failure to lift the bans within 90 days after states eliminate avian flu from farms is in violation of the Phase 1 trade agreement signed with former President Donald Trump in 2020, as per industry officials. However, there has been no official response from the US Trade Representative's office or China's General Administration of Customs on this matter.

Poultry producers such as Wayne-Sanderson Farms, Perdue Farms, Tyson Foods, and Pilgrim's Pride have all highlighted the impact of these trade restrictions on their businesses. Wayne-Sanderson Farms reported significant opportunity losses in millions of dollars due to restrictions on various poultry products.

The avian flu outbreak has had a global impact on poultry trade, and regional or national bans have been implemented in response to the highly lethal virus affecting commercial farms. The United Nations has expressed concerns about global outbreaks leading to the virus potentially adapting to infect humans more easily.

Despite the decline in bird flu cases and the last reported infection in a commercial flock in April, some states continue to face export restrictions. The US Poultry and Egg Export Council estimates that the outbreak has caused nearly $1 billion in export losses, down from the $1.3 billion loss during the 2015 outbreak.

Efforts have been made by the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council to request China to lift restrictions on 14 states that have been deemed free of avian flu, but China's response remains unchanged. US industry officials suspect the delay may be due to political factors amid heightened tensions between China and the US.

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Sheah Auguers/SD Ellenbecker