With a few new changes to the way their animals are processed, Georgia’s poultry farmers may soon reap the benefits of reopened trade with Russia.
Last week’s announcement that Russia will once again allow imports of U.S. produced chicken brings a major customer back into the market for Georgia’s poultry producers, according to Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation.
On Jan. 1, Russia banned all chlorine-treated poultry imports, outlawing the 600,000 tons of poultry allowed from the U.S. under revised quotas.
Yet Russia agreed to reopen its borders to American chickens Thursday, following a meeting between President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
“Resuming trade to Russia is very important for Georgia poultry producers,” Giles said. “...The fact that trade will have a positive impact on the market — market prices and Georgia poultry producers.”
The agreement between Obama and Medvedev came with conditions that U.S. poultry processors who export to Russia not use chlorine as a way to reduce pathogens on the birds.
Instead, companies wishing to export their processed birds to Russia must reduce pathogens with one of three compounds: hydrogen peroxide, peroxyacetic acid or cetylpyridinium chloride.
A certification process for facilities interested in exporting to Russia will soon be under way, said Toby Moore, vice president of communications for the U.S.A. Poultry & Egg Export Council.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service is expected to post requirements for Russian exports on its website sometime this week.
“A lot of companies are ready to comply with the agreement,” Moore said.
Before Russia banned imports of U.S. poultry, 400 plants were approved to export to Russia, and about 20 percent of the poultry processed in the United States has traditionally been exported to Russia, Moore said.
Poultry exports to Russia are only rivaled by that of China, with the two countries combined making up 40 percent of all poultry exports, Moore said.
Giles said the announcement to resume trade with Russia has already had “a positive psychological effect” for producers who were worried the ban could deflate prices and keep poultry production at last year’s low.
Last year, poultry producers produced less chicken than any year since the 1970s, Giles said. Market watchers have, so far, been cautiously optimistic that production would improve, he said.
Knowledge of future trade helps that outlook.
“The Russia situation was one of the kind of storm clouds that was affecting the overall industry, and to have that resolved is a very positive thing,” he said.