US introduces ‘understandable’ poultry restrictions

The US has imposed restrictions on avian products originating or transiting through Victoria. Picture: AAP Image/Cathy Parker

By Rachael Ward, AAP

Australia is trying to minimise trade disruptions after the United States introduced restrictions on Victorian poultry and related products.

The order was prompted by an avian influenza outbreak on two farms in Victoria’s southwest operated by Avgo and Surf Coast Eggs Farms.

More than 500,000 chickens have been culled after cases of H7N3 were detected at the properties in at Meredith and Terang that share management, staff and machinery.

On Saturday, the US Department of Agriculture imposed restrictions on avian products originating or transiting through Victoria backdated to 22 May.

The restrictions apply to certain fresh poultry products, commercial birds, hatching eggs, by-products and several other bird products.

Any imports to the US of processed products must have a permit or government certification confirming they were treated in line with Department of Agriculture guidelines.

But Australian Chicken Meat Federation CEO Mary Wu said the restrictions likely won’t have a big impact on the local industry, although they could affect related poultry products like rendered proteins and pet food.

“The direct impact of the US trade restrictions will be very limited as Australia does not export fresh chicken meat to the US,” Dr Wu said.

The federation was working to restore trade with the US “at the earliest opportunity” by working closely with Australian and American authorities.

Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said it was “understandable” that the US had decided to restrict imports and work was underway to minimise trade disruptions.

No restrictions have been placed on bird products from other Australian states.

Victorian Farmers Federation president and egg farmer Danyel Cucinotta said export restrictions were never good news for farmers and the organisation was focused on containing the spread on local farms.

Ms Cucinotta estimates the outbreak and related cull could rob retailers of 450,000 eggs per day and could take between six months to three years for the affected farms to return to normal production.

An Aldi spokesman told AAP this month that customers might notice gaps on shelves in some stores while Woolworths said it doesn’t expect the outbreak to affect its supply.

The US has also placed restrictions on bird products from other country regions with flu outbreaks, including parts of Japan and Canada.

Pet or zoo birds, pigeons and doves can still be imported from Victoria under a US government permit, but will have to be quarantined for 30 days in New York or Miami.