The U.S. has moved closer to resuming lucrative chicken exports to China after more than a hundred American processing plants were given approval to ship to the Asian nation.
China authorized poultry imports from 172 facilities in the U.S. effective Nov. 22, according to a notice on the nation’s customs website. Chicken giants Tyson Foods Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. and Sanderson Farms Inc. were among the companies making the list, according to a document published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The move comes after China lifted its ban on U.S. poultry shipments earlier this month as part of trade negotiations taking place between Washington and Beijing. The Asian nation banned U.S. poultry imports in 2015 following an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, and kept the prohibition even after nearly all other nationwide bans had been removed.
American poultry exports to China are projected to top $1 billion a year, said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. At their peak, annual poultry exports to China were worth $722 million for chicken and $71 million for turkey, according to the National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation, USA Poultry and the Egg Export Council.
The resumption of exports would be a boon for U.S. chicken companies at a time when a deadly pig disease cuts pork output in China, boosting demand for protein imports by the world’s largest consumer. Even though the pig virus doesn’t affect humans, many Chinese people have opted to switch to chicken.
China imported nearly 50% more frozen chicken, or 615,547 tons, in the first 10 months of the year from a year earlier, customs data show, with Brazil one of the top suppliers. China’s own chicken production also expanded to the highest ever level in the first 10 months as chicken is used as an alternative to pork.
Other companies to receive approval included Perdue Foods LLC, Foster Farms, Wayne Farms LLC and Cargill Inc.