RUSSIAN BAN ON U.S. POULTRY LIKELY TO HURT ALABAMA PRODUCERS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama poultry producers soon could be feeling the effects of a military conflict half way around the world.
Russia has banned imports from 19 U.S. poultry suppliers as of Monday and has insinuated it may add another 29 companies. Russian officials say the ban was issued because those companies use antibiotics and other chemicals in their products.
However, American officials say poultry produced here is safe, and the ban is in retaliation to U.S. officials criticizing Russia for the use of military force against Georgia.
Among the companies targeted in the ban were Tyson, Peco and the Equity Group.
Last year, the United States shipped nearly $1 billion worth of poultry, mainly frozen chicken leg quarters, to Russia. The Russian market accounts for about a third of all poultry exports by the United States, said Alabama Farmers Federation Poultry Division Director Guy Hall.
Alabama ranks third in the nation in broiler production, which is a $2.16 billion industry for the state, Hall said. The state exports $247.3 million worth of poultry each year, almost half of all agricultural exports for Alabama, he added.
"This action is similar to the ban Russia issued in March 2002 in retaliation to American tariffs placed on Russian steel," Hall said. "If it continues, it will likely have a very negative impact for our poultry producers."
Hall said to slow down production, poultry companies may extend the time in between flocks grown by producers. "Typically, a broiler producer may grow out seven different flocks a year," Hall said. "The ban by Russia could cause that number to be reduced to five flocks a year which could basically eat away much of the farmer's profit for a year."
Hall said producers can do little about the reduction in flocks, but instead can continue to concentrate on reducing input costs such as heating fuel and electricity.
"American farmers produce the safest food in the world," Hall said. "Russian poultry farmers are pleased with the ban on American imports because it creates more of a demand for their product. But Russia simply can't produce the amount of poultry its consumers want, so I believe the ban eventually will be lifted. The question is just how long it will take."