Caged chickens with a carton of eggs in the foreground Getty Images/David Silverman

Bans on poultry imports bear watching by U.S. livestock producers

Export bans on one species meat products can have deeper implications on the entire meat industry.

Source: Kansas State University Research and Extension

Bans imposed by some countries on poultry products bear watching by all U.S. livestock producers, according to Kansas State University agricultural economist Glynn Tonsor.

In response to news of the presence of highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza on a Tennessee commercial poultry farm, South Korea on March 6 banned imports of all uncooked U.S. poultry and egg products.

Taiwan imposed a ban on imports of poultry-related products from Tennessee and also imposed a ban on poultry meat from Wisconsin on news that a flock there was confirmed with low pathogenic H5 avian flu. Japan and Hong Kong have also imposed restrictions.

The Tennessee state veterinarian’s office confirmed March 9 that a separate flock of chickens at a commercial poultry operation tested positive for low pathogenic avian influenza.

Depending on how long or widespread such bans on U.S. or specific states’ poultry imports last, however, poultry supplies could back up and potentially weigh on prices for chicken, as well as pork and beef, Tonsor says.

“When one industry loses access to a foreign market, a portion of that volume may be redirected to other foreign customers yet usually results in larger domestic consumption,” he says.

The net effect can lead to a chain reaction: Without the ability to export chicken meat to international markets, U.S. suppliers may be forced to lower prices in order to move product off of grocery-store shelves. And when chicken is cheap, many shoppers will opt to save money instead of buying pork or beef which, in turn, affects the price of livestock in those markets.

Tonsor notes that it’s helpful when some international buyers of U.S. meat products — in this case poultry — adopt regionalization restrictions rather than nationwide restrictions.

“When an importing country elects to restrict products from a region rather than the U.S. entirely, the corresponding trade disruptions and, hence, market-price effects are diluted as the national industry retains some of their originally expected trade access,” he says.

Tonsor adds that this regionalization aspect is particularly important in the case of the poultry industry as production in some bird flyways may be affected while operations in other flyways may experience no animal-health events.

The U.S. exports about 18% of its annual poultry production, according to the USDA Economic Research Service. Mexico, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan were the top five importers of U.S. poultry and eggs in 2016.

Neither the low pathogenic nor high pathogenic forms of the disease poses a risk to the food supply, according to the Tennessee statement.

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