Growing avian influenza concerns spark market concerns

Wisconsin State Farmer
The growing number of HPAI cases in commercial flocks also raises concerns about potential market impacts to trade, especially trade restrictions by key destinations.

Since USDA APHIS reported the first case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in the U.S. Jan. 14, 2022, in a wild bird in South Carolina, new cases of the virus have been reported in all four U.S. migratory flyways (Pacific, Atlantic, Mississippi and Central).

The spread of the virus has made its way into several commercial poultry facilities, with the first case being a turkey flock in Indiana and most recently a commercial poultry operation in Jefferson, Wisconsin, with nearly 3 million laying hens having to be depopulated.

Since the first reported incidence, Livestock Marketing Information Center noted that HPAI has quickly spread with USDA reporting 59 cases in backyard and commercial flocks, impacting more than 14.2 million head as March 25. However, the current outbreak pales in comparison with the 2014-15 outbreak which resulted in 7.4 million turkeys and 43 million egg-layers/pullet chickens either affected by HPAI, died from the disease, or were depopulated to control further spread.

Market impacts

The growing number of HPAI cases in commercial flocks also raises concerns about potential market impacts to trade, especially trade restrictions by key destinations. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Import and Export Library website, as of March 25, most of the top destinations for U.S. poultry exports have placed varying degrees of restrictions on exports. Mexico and China have both placed restrictions on states with reported HPAI cases. Canada has stated poultry exports are ineligible from the 10km radius zone surrounding an affected premises.

In 2021, total broiler exports were record high at nearly 7.4 billion pounds, up less than one percent or 307,000 pounds from 2020. The top export destination was Mexico with almost 1.6 billion pounds shipped which accounted for 22% of total exports last year, according to the Livestock Marketing Information Center.

The Caribbean (Cuba, Haiti, Bahamas, St. Lucia, Aruba, Antigua & Barbuda) was the next highest export market at 925.2 million pounds and accounted for 13% of total exports. China accounted for about 5% of total shipments last year totaling 382.4 million pounds. Canada and Angola each accounted for about 4% of total exports at 316.1 and 317.8 million pounds shipped, respectively. Collectively, the countries listed above accounted for about half (48%) of total broiler exports in 2021.