USDA to send officials to China regarding poultry issues

Published on: Aug 16, 2013

USDA is moving closer to opening the U.S. market to Chinese-processed chicken by sending two of its senior food safety officials to Beijing next week for a bilateral meeting on the subject, the National Chicken Council reported.  The meeting is a culmination of seven years of negotiations.

Representing USDA in Beijing will be Al Almanza, administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and Dan Englejohn, FSIS’ deputy assistant administrator.

Though the initial subject of conversation for the USDA officials during the meeting in Beijing is to be the import of chickens that were grown in the United States and processed in China, the talks may also cover the eventual U.S. import of poultry raised in China.

“The relationship, if it is mutual, could allow the Chinese to look at our exports more favorably instead of stymieing them,” said Bill Roenigk, National Chicken Council consultant and former NCC senior vice president, in an interview with Politico. “It would be a breakthrough for other U.S. agriculture products that would like to come to China as well. It’s not that we look forward to more imports because that means more competition for us, but we understand that trade is a two-way street,” Roenigk said.

USDA officials inspected some Chinese poultry plants in March, and prepared a report, which officials say has been sent to China for review. The report, which is thought to be favorable, could pave the way for a handful of Chinese plants to be certified to process U.S. chicken.

In 2006, China first began insisting that the United States allow Chinese chicken into its market. In 2010, China claimed that the United States was unfairly selling its chicken in China at prices below market value before instituting high tariffs on shipments. The tariffs–as high as 105.4 percent–cut off 80% of U.S. chicken exports to China.

In July, the World Trade Organization ruled the tariffs were unjustified, but it is unclear if China will abide by the ruling or appeal, NCC said.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said U.S. products can compete when there is a level playing field and he said over time he has no doubt lost market share can be regained.