China’s imports of US chicken have surged this year, putting the Asian country on course to overtake Mexico, the No. 1 buyer for the past decade, as the biggest importer of US chicken.
China bought 5.7 billion pounds of poultry products worth $2.6 billion from the US in the first nine months of 2020, representing 13% of total US chicken and product exports worldwide. China banned imports of US chicken from 2015 until November 2019 following an outbreak of bird flu in the United States.
China’s surging chicken imports this year come despite the country’s targeted goal of becoming largely self-sufficient in animal proteins—and 100% self-sufficient in poultry meat. Pork is China’s most popular animal protein, and the country’s hog population is still rebounding from the devastation caused by African swine fever in 2018-19.
The strength of China’s demand for US meat exports is a bright spot for the US industry. US domestic chicken prices have weakened since the spring, and are at multiyear lows. And chicken inventories are well supplied as still-sluggish food-service sales impact US domestic demand.
China was the largest export market for US poultry products until about 10 years ago. While China’s ban of US chicken imports was in effect, US exports of poultry to Taiwan and Hong Kong jumped sharply, offsetting most of the lost sales to mainland China. Nevertheless, so far in 2020, export quantities to those combined are up sharply.
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