April 17, 2019

China may increase opportunities for US poultry and pork: sources


China would likely lift a ban on US poultry as part of a trade deal and may buy more pork to meet a growing supply deficit, but it is not willing to relent on allowing the drug ractopamine used in roughly half the US hog herd, two sources with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters.

China's negotiators have resisted lifting the ractopamine restriction even though Beijing may boost imports of US pork as its own hog herd is devastated by African swine fever (ASF), the sources said.

Iowa State University agricultural economist Dermot Hayes said he expects China will import about four to six million tonnes of pork in 2020, following losses in Chinese herds. The amount imported from the US will depend on a trade deal, as Beijing maintains tariffs on shipments of US pork and has alternative suppliers, he said.

The Chinese poultry market also "has tremendous potential" for US producers, said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, valuing it at US$500 million.

The US Department of Agriculture projects China's total chicken imports will surge 68% this year to 575,000 tonnes, as ASF prompts consumers to switch to proteins other than pork.

China has banned US poultry and eggs since January 2015 due to an avian influenza outbreak, which has been over a number of years ago.

China lifted a similar restriction on poultry from France last month, and last year dropped duties on US white-feathered broiler chickens.

While it looks increasingly likely China may lift its ban on US poultry, Beijing is seeking a "two-way street" and would want to be able to export some poultry products to the US as well, two sources said.

China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs did not respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the US Trade Representative's office declined to comment.