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In the international poultry meat trade the main talking point at the end of 2009 came when the Russian government decided to reduce its quota on poultry meat imports by almost half from 2010, with a view to promoting national production in order to achieve self-sufficiency by 2015.

In 2009 the quota on imports into Russia had been set at 952,000 metric tons. Actual imports were around 913,000 metric tons. Early estimates for 2010 were that this amount would fall to no more than 850,000 metric tons.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, the trade in poultry meat between countries had already come to a virtual halt in 2009 after expanding at double-digit levels in the previous decade. The same source suggested that total imports of broiler meat in 2009 reached 7.61 million metric tons ready-to-cook (RTC) weight, down from 7.79 million metric tons in 2008, although a modest revival to 7.71 million metric tons was expected for 2010.

Its account of the trade data for turkey meat showed imports totaling 400,000 metric tons in 2009 compared with 486,000 metric tons in 2008, although again a recovery to 429,000 metric tons in 2010 was proposed.

On USDA figures the largest individual importers of broiler meat are Russia, Europe’s EU-27 community, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Mexico. The highest annual import volumes for turkey meat are registered by Mexico, the EU-27, Russia, South Africa and China.

Brazil leads the way in net exports of both types of poultry meat (see Chart 1), selling 3.2 million metric tons of broiler meat and 163,000 metric tons of turkey to other countries in 2009.

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Table 1 records the regional poultry meat imports and exports in 2009 and each region’s average annual volume in the period 2007-2009, as calculated for a OECD/FAO report. Despite the near standstill in trade described for 2009, therefore, the three-year world average still represents a growth rate of 4 to 5% since 2000.

Poultry meat exports by the USA grew at a rate of 3% in this time, to a 2007-09 average of 3.24 million metric tons. U.S. exports of broiler meat in fact declined by 2% in 2009 as Russian quotas limited access to the country’s market and continued trade restrictions threatened a 15% reduction in volumes in 2010. Turkey meat exports from the USA were said to have contrasting prospects, however, being on course for a 2% annual increase from the 235,000 metric tons exported by the USA in 2009.

As Chart 1 shows, the USA and Brazil together represented about 68% of all exports of poultry meat in 2009.

Commentators in 2010 said that the consumption and imports of broiler meat were likely to be stimulated by the global economic recovery. Although Russia, the EU-27 and Japan would remain the largest markets for broiler meat imports, their share of global trade was forecast to continue to stagnate or erode. By contrast, the expectation was for larger imports into non-traditional developing markets in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.

These markets are slowly accounting for a greater portion of world trade, the commentary continued. Their level of demand is being spurred by population growth, rising incomes and budding meat consumption. Poultry performs particularly well in these markets as it is a relatively low-cost form of animal protein that is versatile and has no religious taboos attached to its consumption.

In a presentation to the 3 Global Feed and Food Congress, Richard Brown of GIRA used accompanying Chart 2 as a reminder that the Middle East-North Africa region is already the world’s largest for total meat imports and its poultry meat import requirement in 2010 could be as high as 2.3 million metric tons, approximately one-fifth of the world total.