China removes all barriers to poultry imports from US

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Live birds and poultry products can now be shipped to China from the US as both sides negotiate a trade deal.

China has approved the import of all poultry and poultry products from the United States, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said on its website on Monday.

Beijing had banned all trade in poultry products from the US since 2015 due to outbreaks of avian influenza there.

China approved poultry meat product imports in November 2019 as a concession to the US in the run-up to finalising a limited trade deal.

The new announcement would also allow for the import of live birds, said Li Jinghui of the China Poultry Association, benefitting companies including Aviagen and Cobb-Vantress Inc, both based in the US and among the world’s biggest poultry breeding companies.

Nobody at the China offices of Aviagen or Cobb could immediately be reached by phone.

Imports of live poultry from the US were worth $38.7m in 2013, dwarfed by other poultry products such as chicken feet.

However, the US ban had a significant impact on China’s poultry producers, who needed breeder chickens to replenish their stock.

Opening up imports of live birds again is part of the trade deal, said Li, although he added that it may not have a major impact.

Both Aviagen and Cobb have increased production of their birds, known as « grandparent stock », in other locations such as New Zealand to meet demand from China.

Two of China’s leading poultry firms, Shandong Yisheng Livestock and Poultry Breeding Co Ltd and Fujian Sunner Development Co Ltd, have also started up breeding programmes to reduce their reliance on imports.

China is the world’s second-largest poultry producer and has been ramping up output to fill a huge meat shortage after an epidemic decimated its pig herd.

But prices have plunged in recent weeks because of measures taken by Beijing to tackle a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 1,700 people.

Restrictions on moving livestock and extended holidays in many areas have paralysed the supply chain, leaving farmers stuck with large inventories of birds and eggs and slashing demand as restaurants and canteens stay shut.

Containers of frozen chicken feet from the US have also been caught up in the logistics logjam, with many diverted from China because of a lack of capacity to store additional cargoes.