China's decision to lift a nearly five-year ban on U.S. chicken products has been welcomed by Delmarva growers, although estimates of how resumed exports will help the region are not yet known.
“I think it's a good opportunity for Delmarva chicken,” said James Fisher, communications manager for Delmarva Poultry Industry, which has 1,700 members and represents five processing companies – Mountaire, Perdue, Tyson, Allen Harim and Amick.
Fisher said about 10 percent of chicken produced on Delmarva is exported now, but the vast amount of chicken produced in Delmarva is sold and consumed in the U.S. – generally not too far from the Mid-Atlantic area, he said.
International consumers tend to favor dark meat and also chicken feet, known as paws, he said. “It's part of their cuisine,” he said, while admitting he's not sure what they do with chicken paws.
Fisher said has no estimate how much poultry will be exported to China from Delmarva or when those exports will begin, but the industry looks forward to access to China's market.
“It has potential to raise global demand for Delmarva-raised chicken, and that's absolutely good news for farmers here, chicken companies here, and more than 20,000 employees who work for Delmarva chicken companies,” he said. “It helps them sell what they make to even more people, and that's positive.”
Catherine M. Bassett, director of communications and community relations for Mountaire, did not say how much revenue Mountaire expects from poultry exports. Still, she said it is great news for Delmarva.
“Any time you open up a market for chicken, it’s going to have a positive economic impact here locally,” she said. “China offers a huge market for a variety of products, so we look forward to expanding our exports.”
According to the 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture census, 734 family farms in Delaware produced more than 52 million chickens and other poultry for meat production. Poultry production generates nearly $3.4 billion in economic impact on Delmarva.
“The opening of Chinese markets has been something that we have been looking forward to for a number of years,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse in a statement. “The ability to export poultry to China will help our producers here on Delmarva and across the United States.”
Stacey Hofmann, chief of community relations for the Delaware Department of Agriculture, said the department should know more in upcoming weeks about revenue projections.
China banned U.S. poultry in 2015 following an avian flu outbreak. In 2013, the U.S. exported more than $500 million worth of poultry products to China, according to the USDA.
In announcing U.S. access to China's market, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he expects more than $1 billion a year in poultry exports to China.
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said exports will support producers and jobs.
“After being shut out of the market for years, U.S. poultry producers and exporters welcome the reopening of China's market to their products. America's producers are the most productive in the world, and it is critical they be able to sell their bounty to consumers in other parts of the globe,” he said in a statement.