U.S. poultry producers just gained a sizable new export market in Africa.

On January 7, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced the United States and South Africa have reached a definitive agreement to allow U.S. chicken producers to resume exports of U.S. chicken parts to South Africa.

The agreement between the U.S. and South Africa’s governments reopens the South African market to bone-in U.S. chicken parts, which have been excluded since 2000.

A release from the National Chicken Council said under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. is granted an annual quota of 65,000 metric tons of chicken that will be increased incrementally each year. South Africa has also agreed to a policy of regionalization in the event of future detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in the U.S.

Previously, if HPAI were detected in the U.S., South Africa would impose a nationwide import ban on poultry. Under the new agreement, bans would be imposed only on individual states affected by the virus.

In a joint statement, Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, and Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, thanked U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman; Patrick Gaspard, U.S. Ambassador to South Africa and Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., for their help in finalizing the agreement. In June 2015, the Washington-based poultry industry associations negotiated an agreement with the South African Poultry Association to end the rainbow nation’s chicken embargo. The agreement needed governmental approval to be finalized.


"Although success will ultimately be realized when U.S. chicken is imported into South Africa, today's announcement is a positive step to bringing increased economic benefits to U.S. chicken farmers and companies across the country," Sumner and Brown said in a release. "But the real winners are South African consumers, who will now be afforded even more options when it comes to wholesome protein sources."

In a recent interview, Tom Super, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, said the 65 million metric tons of annual chicken trade is worth about $65 million to U.S. chicken exporters. South Africa represents the largest potential market for U.S. poultry exports in Africa.

In a joint release, Sens. Coons and Isakson said the agreement will end more than 15 years of “illegal anti-dumping duties and unfair trade policies.”

“South Africa is a critical market for the U.S. poultry industry, and will lead to tens of millions of dollars more in annual export sales,” Coons and Isakson said in a release. “It is also a good deal for South Africa, as our poultry is healthy, affordable, and of the highest quality, and we are thrilled that it will finally reach the dinner tables of South Africans.

“The U.S. poultry industry is committed to investing in the South African poultry sector, and this deal will help build a strong partnership between our industries.”

A release from Isakson’s office said the senators had pressured the South African government for more than a year to change their policies toward U.S. poultry products. Isakson secured language in the 2015 African Growth and Opportunity Act reauthorization which called for a review of South Africa’s AGOA benefits if the trade policies were not changed.

In November, because South Africa was slow to adopt the terms of the June agreement, President Barack Obama gave South Africa a 60-day notice of his intention to suspend its AGOA benefits if South Africa did not eliminate trade barriers to U.S. poultry, as well as beef and pork. The 60-day period expired earlier this week.