A chicken statue juts into the sky at Poultry Park in Gainesville, which bills itself as “The Poultry Capital of the World.” (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Georgia’s giant poultry industry licks chops after China trade thaw

Georgia officials cheered news Thursday that China would allow imports of U.S. poultry for the first time in nearly five years.

Agriculture is Georgia’s largest industry, and poultry the state’s chief agricultural export. The state exported some $856 million worth of it in 2018, the latest estimate available from the Census Bureau.

Beijing has banned all U.S. poultry imports since January 2015, a month after an avian influenza outbreak ravaged the industry. American poultry has been free of the disease since August 2017, according to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black called Beijing’s ban “needless and unscientific” and said the reopening of the Chinese market will “undoubtedly result in expanded opportunities for our producers.”

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson echoed the sentiment, saying Georgia “has a lot to gain” from the announcement as the country’s top poultry producer.

Before the Chinese export ban went into effect, the U.S. exported more than $500 million of poultry to China in 2013, according to the U.S. Trade Representative. The federal agency said it expects Americans will eventually be able to export more than $1 billion in poultry meat and related products to China annually.

It was not immediately clear exactly when exports would restart, but Thursday’s announcement came as the U.S. and China were in the thick of broader trade negotiations.

“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,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the former Georgia governor whose office helped negotiate with Beijing.

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