China Lifts Restrictions on Imports of US Poultry: Customs

November 14, 2019 Updated: November 14, 2019

BEIJING—China’s customs said on Nov. 14 it was lifting restrictions on the import of poultry meat from the United States, effective immediately. U.S. officials welcomed the move as it would boost U.S. exports by $1 billion annually.

The plan to lift the nearly five-year ban on U.S. poultry was announced by China’s commerce ministry in late October but publication on the website of the customs administration, which clears imports of all farm products, is a formal recognition of the reopening of the trade.

It comes after the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service amended the Federal Register last week to approve imports of poultry products derived from birds slaughtered in China.

The poultry approvals by each side come during ongoing negotiations between the countries to resolve a 16-month long trade war in which each has slapped tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each others’ goods.

Improving access for U.S. farm produce in the Chinese market has been a critical part of the negotiations, with removal of non-tariff barriers seen as key to reaching Trump’s goal of doubling agricultural sales to China.

China banned all U.S. poultry and eggs in January 2015 due to an avian influenza outbreak, and imports tanked that year to a fifth of the $390 million worth imported in 2014.

Reopening the market to U.S. poultry meat comes as China faces an unprecedented shortage of protein, after a fatal hog disease—African swine fever—killed millions of pigs in the pork-loving country.

China, the world’s top pork consumer, will likely buy all types of U.S. chicken, turkey and duck to offset the pork shortage, said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, an industry group.

“We’re in a state of euphoria,” Sumner said. “At this point, if it’s meat protein, they’ll eat it.”

Shares of American poultry producers rose on the announcement. Tyson Foods gained 2.1 percent, Sanderson Farms climbed 4.1 percent and Pilgrim’s Pride Corp rose 1 percent.

Imports of chicken have surged this year, with China even purchasing items from abroad such as breast meat that is normally in surplus in the country. Chicken imports of 548,627 tonnes in the first nine months were up 47.6 percent from year ago levels, according to Chinese customs data, and were worth 9.2 billion yuan ($1.3 billion).

Boost US Exports

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Thursday that they welcomed China‘s decision to lift a nearly five-year ban on poultry imports from the United States, adding this would boost U.S. exports by $1 billion annually.

China is an important export market for America’s poultry farmers, and we estimate they will now be able to export more than $1 billion worth of poultry and poultry products each year to China,” Lighthizer said in a statement.

Earlier on Thursday, China‘s customs authority said it was lifting the ban on U.S. poultry meat and eggs, which started in 2015 after an avian influenza outbreak.

By Dominique Patton and David Lawder