China’s ‘regionalization’ agreement to benefit US poultry exports

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that it has reached a “regionalization” agreement with China for the safe trade of poultry products during disease outbreaks.

“This agreement will help our farmers and ranchers by maintaining export markets, which will reduce the overall impact of an outbreak to our agriculture industry,” USDA said in a statement.

Both the U.S. and China agreed that when a poultry disease hits, unaffected regions of the individual countries should still be able to continue trading in poultry products.

“Because the animals in regions affected by diseases are kept separate and maintained under trade restrictions, there is a minimal risk of those animals spreading disease,” USDA said. 

According to the department, APHIS used the process of regionalization to continue trade with other countries dealing with regional animal disease outbreaks such as the highly pathogenic avian influenza and Newcastle disease.

“This is because the U.S. demonstrated to China its ability to effectively regionalize for avian influenza, allowing safe trade from free zones,” USDA said. “In return, the U.S. agrees to implement regionalization for Chinese poultry products once China has officially recognized free zones in place. Both countries also agree not to impose trade restrictions on each other for findings of low pathogenic avian influenza.”

If a poultry disease is detected in a region of the U.S. or China, however, the country must take immediate steps to control the infected area, notify the other country, suspend imports and exports to that area, cull and disinfect the poultry farms, and monitor the virus until exports and imports may resume.

During the past month, USDA leadership has touted a number of recent agricultural-based regulatory improvements reached between the U.S. and China, especially related to the poultry industry, since the signing of the “Phase One Economic and trade Agreement” on February 14.

On November 14, 2019, the Chinese government agreed to lift a five-year ban imposed on U.S. poultry imports.

China imposed the ban on U.S. poultry imports in January 2015 after an avian flu outbreak in December 2014, but kept the import prohibition in place although the U.S. has been declared free of the disease since August 2017.

According to USDA, the U.S. is the second-largest poultry exporter in the world, with exports of poultry meat and products reaching $4.3 billion in 2018.

While the U.S. exported more than $500 million of poultry products to China in 2013, USDA forecasted at the time of the November 14 announcement by China to lift its U.S. poultry ban that the restored market access will allow U.S. poultry producers to export more than $1 billion annually to China.