WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2016 – South Africa has agreed to end its trade bans on U.S. poultry, pork and beef after years of negotiation and a recent ultimatum from President Barack Obama, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Obama gave South Africa until New Year's Eve to remove the multiyear bans it had put on U.S. poultry, beef and pork. If the country refused, Obama said the U.S. would revoke its agricultural benefits including duty-free exports under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Negotiations continued, however, and now, seven days later, South Africa has agreed to meet the president’s demands.

“This agreement is a positive outcome for both our countries” and “was made possible because of South Africa’s constructive efforts over the last several months,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said Thursday in a release.

“The true test of our success will be based on the ability of South African consumers to buy American product in local stores,” Froman continued. “We will be working to ensure that this final benchmark of entry of poultry is achieved so that South Africa continues to have the advantage of full AGOA benefits, including by working with the U.S. and South African industries to expedite the shipment of eligible product as soon as possible.”

Under the agreement, the U.S. may export as much as 65,000 metric tons of chicken to South Africa annually, with incremental increases in subsequent years. In the case of future avian influenza outbreaks in the U.S., South Africa must regionalize any trade bans on poultry imports to the U.S. states that are affected, as opposed to instituting blanket bans, as it has in the past.

According to USTR, the agreement will allow South Africa to reserve a portion of its new trade in U.S. poultry for historically disadvantaged importers.

Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, and Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, said they were pleased with the agreement.

“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,” they said in a joint release. “But the real winners are South African consumers, who will now be afforded even more options when it comes to wholesome protein sources.”

The two groups and other chicken industry stakeholders worked with USTR and the South African government to finalize an agreement on U.S. poultry in June. The Paris agreement, as it was called, required South Africa to ease its bans on poultry – a policy South Africa says it enacted to protect its food supply from avian influenza, and more recently, salmonella – as well as its anti-dumping duties that were imposed on U.S. chicken in 2000.

Ron Prestage, president of the National Pork Producers Council, also welcomed USTR’s announcement, but said he hadn’t seen the “fine print” of the agreement yet.

“NPPC… understands that some restrictions on U.S. pork may remain,” Prestage said in a release. “While dropping the ban on U.S. pork is great progress… there is no scientific reason to restrict any of our pork, so we’ll continue to work with both governments to get complete access to the South African market.”

South Africa banned U.S. pork imports in 2013 following the U.S. outbreak of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome. The risk of the disease spreading through trade was negligible, NPPC said.

Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Chris Coons, D-Del., co-chairs of the Senate Chicken Caucus, said U.S. poultry could enter the South African market within the month, eventually “leading to tens of millions of dollars more in annual export sales.”

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“South Africa’s decision to finally fulfill the obligations of the settlement reached last summer means that after more than 15 years of illegal anti-dumping duties and unfair trade policies, American poultry will finally be able to enter the South African market,” the senators said in a release.

The poultry industry contributes over $15 billion annually to Georgia’s economy and about $4.6 billion to Delaware’s.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a release that the agreement was “good news for American farmers, ranchers and poultry, pork and beef companies.”

“We welcome this move by South Africa and will continue our efforts to break down barriers and expand access for high-quality, safe and wholesome U.S. food and agricultural products around the world,” he added.

According to USDA, U.S. poultry, pork and beef exports to South Africa could generate $75 million of shipments annually.


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