Bird flu in the US

The United States poultry industry and veterinarians are on high alert for outbreaks of avian influenza, or bird flu, now reported in three states – Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia.

Whether the outbreaks are contained, or bird flu spreads, remains to be seen. While bird flu has swept across Europe over the past three years, the US has not had a major bird flu outbreak since 2014-15, when some 51 million birds were culled, costing US$879 million in public expenditures.

Because of bird flu bans on EU producers, the US has become the second largest supplier of poultry to South Africa – Brazil dominated in 2021 with 66.6%, while 15.6% of poultry imports last year came from the US. The EU was third with 8.8%.

US poultry imports have increased dramatically since 2015, when only 331 tonnes was imported. US producers have been subject to anti-dumping duties since 2000, but in 2016 the US added a large quota free of anti-dumping duties as the price of South Africa’s accession to the AGOA trade deal.

That quota of legally dumped chicken, set at 65 000 tonnes in 2016, has increased annually and now stands at 71 290 tonnes. Nearly all US poultry imports are the bone-in chicken portions such as leg quarters which are causing the most problems for the South African poultry industry.

Image: A CDC scientist harvesting the H7N9 virus for research purposes. Image courtesy of the CDC.