Although the U.S. poultry industry won a victory in opening South Africa up for exports, there are still more international trade issues –  including exports to China and South Korea – looming.

On March 2, the U.S. Trade Representative, National Chicken Council and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., held a conference call with the media to commemorate the arrival of U.S. poultry exports to the rainbow nation. Although the attitude was celebratory, they said the U.S. must keep working to grow the export market for its poultry products.

The next front could be reopening China and South Korea to U.S. poultry exports. Both East Asian countries are blocking U.S. poultry imports due to concerns about highly pathogenic avian influenza. Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, said the U.S. was “on the cusp” of returning to the market but the Indiana outbreak stopped the progress.

“While that impacted turkey and egg layers, not the broiler industry, that has reset a clock with South Korea,” Brown said. “We are trying to work with South Korea to go to regionalization so that in the future only birds from the affected state would be banned. So we’re working through that right now as we speak and I know our government is communicating the same to China.”

On February 29, the senators announced the first shipment of U.S. poultry arrived in Durban, South Africa, and more is already on the way. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the opening of the South African market is a major victory for chicken, beef and pork producers.

 “This has a real economic impact on our farmers and ranchers,” Froman said. “The removal of these barriers could mean an additional $160 million of exports from the U.S. each year.”

About 22 percent of all chickens produced in the U.S. are destined for export markets.