Chinese chicken deal could boost Delaware exports

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(File/WHYY)

(File/WHYY)

A trade deal that would allow cooked Chinese chicken to be imported into the United States is being praised by poultry industry leaders.

The U.S.-China trade agreement will allow U.S. beef to be sent to China markets while cooked Chinese poultry comes to America. According to the Associated Press, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross calls the deal a “herculean accomplishment” that was done in record time.

“This is more than has been done in the whole history of U.S.-China relations on trade,” Ross said at the White House Thursday night. “Normally trade deals are denominated in multiple years, not tens of days.”

The trade deal could lead to a return of U.S. chicken to China, according to Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council.

“If we’re going to be exporting to other countries around the world, we’ve got to expect that we need to treat them the way we want to be treated,” Sumner said in a phone interview with WHYY. “It’s part of an important agreement which will hopefully not only open up the China market again for U.S. poultry, but also for U.S. beef too.”

Sumner said any imports from China would have to meet the same standards U.S. poultry growers are required to meet.

The ruling was also praised by National Chicken Council president Mike Brown. He hopes the deal will be used as leverage to get broiler chickens, like those grown in Delaware, into the Chinese market. “In order to be effective, free trade must operate as a two-way street,” Brown said in a statement. “I am optimistic that as our negotiators continue the dialogue with China, U.S. broiler access issues will be resolved expeditiously.”

China blocked all U.S. poultry imports in 2015 as a reaction to avian influenza. Prior to that ban, U.S. poultry exports to China peaked at $722 million in 2008, National Chicken Council statistics show.

For decades, chicken production has been big business in Delaware.

Poultry growers produce more than 200 million birds every year, which means chickens outnumber residents in the First State by more than 200 to 1.

In 2015, farmers on the Delmarva Peninsula, which includes Delaware, produced nearly four billion pounds of chicken, according to the Delmarva Poultry Industry group. That chicken had a wholesale value of $3.25 billion.

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