Although no detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza have been recorded in the US for more than seven weeks, the toll the virus has taken on the US poultry and egg industry this year is staggering.
The impact of lost exports alone – the result of a flurry of AI-related trade restrictions imposed on imports US poultry and egg products – reached nearly $390 million during the first half of 2015.
14% drop in US poultry exports
In precise terms, the combined value of US poultry and egg exports for the first half fell by 14% from the same period last year to $2.4054 billion, a decline in value of $386.3 million, according to trade data compiled by the Foreign Agricultural Service.
This sharp drop in export value, one of the largest ever for a January through June span, is a graphic example of the economic effect this year's multi-state outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza has had on the industry.
Import restrictions lifting
The good news is that some countries have begun lifting their import restrictions on poultry products originating in certain states, now that more than 90 days have passed since affected farms were cleaned and disinfected, as is recommended by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
Hong Kong, in fact, just this week announced that it has lifted restrictions on 10 previously banned counties in the states of Arkansas, Washington, Oregon and California. Some US trading partners have been slow to remove restrictions, however, including Mexico, the industry's largest export market. Japan and Singapore have also recently removed restrictions.
Poultry industry braced for return of AI
While the HPAI virus is on somewhat of a hiatus during the warmer months of summer, the US industry is bracing for its possible return this fall, as migratory birds – thought to be the primary vectors of the virus – head south for the winter. State and federal officials worry that wild birds will carry the virus into the Atlantic flyway that cuts through the heart of the main poultry-producing areas of the mid-Atlantic and Southeast.
US poultry export values
Exporters, meanwhile, hope for the best after a disheartening first half of the year. Poultry meat exports for January through June plummeted by 9% to 1.84 million metric tons, while value fell by 15% to $2.241 billion. The impact goes beyond exports, as more product on the domestic market means lower prices that add to the losses.
Exports of poultry meat for the month of June were down 14% to 305,504 tons, while value dipped by 25%to $348.8 million, compared to the same month a year earlier.