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Ag commissioner: Diverse poultry market will soften Russian ban’s blow

POSTED: August 7, 2014 12:57 p.m.

Gary Black

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Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said he’s “saddened” by Russia placing a one-year ban on U.S. food imports but believes the move could backfire, with Russian consumers being the ones hurt the most.

“I don’t want to downplay it because whenever you have these serious policy issues taking place, you hate to see that happen,” he said. “But the diversity of our market now makes this not as much an impact as it would have in the past.”

Past issues with Russia have taught some lessons “and that’s why you’re seeing the market diversify and demand growing worldwide for Georgia poultry.”

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said he’s studying the impact of the ban on 9th District poultry producers.

“I do know it's sadly typical of Russia to try to strike back needlessly at the United States by making life harder on its own people,” he said.

The Gainesville-based Georgia Poultry Federation declined to comment on the issue, deferring to USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

The council reported that Russia is the second-leading market for U.S. chicken, but the country has expanded its domestic poultry industry in recent years so that the country accounts for about 7 percent of total U.S. poultry export volume compared to as much as 40 percent in the mid-1990s.

“As a result, we do not expect that a Russian ban on U.S. poultry imports will have a great impact on our industry,” a statement from the council reads. “The biggest impact, we believe, will be on Russian citizens who will be burdened by higher prices for all food products, especially meat and poultry. The price of poultry in Russia is already rising and has recently been increasing at a rate of 2 percent to 3 percent per week.”

Georgia broiler exports to Russia have dropped to 40,102 metric tons in 2013 from 104,465 tons in 2009, according to USA Poultry & Egg Export Council data.

Through June this year, Georgia has exported 17,949 tons, compared to 19,953 last January-June.

Michael Wheeler, Hall County’s extension agent, said Mexico was the U.S. largest market for broilers in 2013, far surpassing Russia.

“I think that (companies) continuing to develop that market … will help offset the loss to Russia,” he said.

“But also, as the U.S. economy continues to pick up, hopefully we can absorb our own. Poultry is the cheapest form of protein we raise. If people get a little more grocery money in their pocket, they’re going to spend more money on poultry first.”

He said he expects companies will have to “get their heads together” to figure short-term solutions, “figuring out where they can move some of their inventory to offset (the loss).

“But I’ll think everything will even out.”



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