More than 20 countries have implemented bans on all poultry imports from Arkansas after a case of avian influenza was found in a Boone County turkey flock.
Included in the countries to ban Arkansas poultry is Mexico, the U.S. poultry industry’s top trading partner, which according to Jessica Sampson, an agricultural economist at the Livestock Marketing Information Center, accounts for 21 percent of U.S. chicken exports and 63 percent of turkey exports.
The move by Mexico and other countries raised concerns that poultry companies might face lower prices for meat as supply expands inside the United States.
Before the case of avian influenza in Arkansas, many of countries with import restrictions were blocking poultry from California, Missouri and Minnesota, all states that had confirmed cases of avian influenza in commercial turkey flocks. Those states accounted for about 10 percent of U.S. production by sales, according to USDA data. With the addition of Arkansas, 20 percent of the United States' poultry production faces trade restrictions.
"High pathogenic avian flu in Arkansas is definitely concerning because it's the first really major producer to be hit," Sampson said.
Prices for dark meat are likely to decline as supply builds up in the United States, but the cost of white meat could decline as well, Sampson added.
The bans are expected to be a bigger problem for regional companies with operations primarily in Arkansas than for companies with a presence in other states. Tyson Foods, the largest poultry company in the United States, is headquartered in Arkansas, but it has operations in additional states that will help it continue to export its poultry products.
"Our company has the ability to ship products from multiple states, so we believe we can meet demand for both domestic and global markets," said Dan Fogleman, a spokesman for Tyson Foods.
Ozark Mountain Poultry CEO Ed Fryar said the bans have so far had very little impact on the Arkansas company, because it is still able to export paws, its largest export product. However, he added that the company could be affected more in the future, depending on how long the bans last.