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Beijing lifted its ban on US poultry imports in November last year. Photo: AFP

China buys US$418 million worth of American poultry products in year through August

  • Beijing banned all purchases of American poultry in 2015 in response to an outbreak of bird flu in the US
  • China expected to return to being America’s No 1 export market in 2021, president of US industry group says
China bought 283,183 tonnes of poultry products worth US$418 million from the United States in the first eight months of the year, representing 12 per cent of its exports of the food group in the period, according to an industry group.

Included in the total was 118,662 tonnes of chicken feet worth US$263 million, the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council said.

Speaking via a video link to the China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Saturday, Jim Summer, the group’s president, was upbeat about the future.

“After five years’ of absence, and actually for several months this year, our shipment to China actually exceeded our shipment to Mexico,” he said.

“By year’s end our numbers of total shipment to China are going to be very close or equal to Mexico, by next year China will again be our No 1 market. We are very pleased with the relationship that we have developed with the two countries.”

China bought 118,662 tonnes of chicken feet worth US$263 million from America in the first eight months of 2020. Photo: EPA
Under the phase one trade deal signed in January between Beijing and Washington, China promised to increase its purchases of US farm goods by at least US$12.5 billion this year and by US$19.5 billion in 2021, from a 2017 base of US$24 billion.

The deal included protection for the US poultry industry in the event of a disease outbreak.

China used to be America’s largest export market for poultry products, but banned them in 2015 over concerns about a bird flu outbreak in the US. The restriction was lifted in November last year.

In the interim period, Mexico took over as the leading destination for American poultry.

China’s chicken production surges, reducing appetite for imports as food safety fears grow amid coronavirus

“One of the primary reasons we want to get back to the Chinese market is that we know the Chinese consumers love our jumbo paws [chicken feet],” Summer said, adding that American producers also saw “tremendous opportunities” for selling more turkey to China.

“We know that turkey legs are one of the biggest hits they have to offer at Tokyo Disneyland. Here in Disneyland in Shanghai we are thinking this is going to soon follow. We can’t wait to have turkey drumsticks as a tremendous snack.”

The US exported 10,912 tonnes of turkey worth US$18 million to China in the first eight months of the year.

China imported 834,000 tonnes of meat in September as it continues to stock up after a plunge in its pork output caused by an outbreak of African swine fever that started in August 2018. The disease wiped out about half of the country’s pig population, mostly through culls, and resulted in a severe shortage of the staple meat.

Wang Bin, deputy director of the market operation and consumption promotion department at China’s commerce ministry, said the country had been increasing its meat imports in 2020 and expected to see a record high by the end of the year.

“China’s meat imports have become the engine for world meat production,” he said at the Shanghai expo.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: US poultry exports to mainland on rise in wake of banUS poultry sales to China recover after flu ban lifted