Morocco agrees to accept US poultry imports

Agreement reverses Morocco's previous ban on US poultry that was based on food safety concerns despite free trade agreement between two countries.

WASHINGTON - Morocco has agreed to accept imports of American poultry products for the first time, the US Trade Representative's office and the US Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday, estimating initial annual shipments at about $10 million.

The agreement reverses Morocco's previous ban on US poultry that was based on food safety concerns despite a free trade agreement between the two countries.

USTR and USDA said the two agencies had worked with the Moroccan government "to provide assurances on the safety of US poultry."

They estimated that Morocco would be a $10 million market for US poultry initially, with additional growth over time.

"I am convinced that when the Moroccan people get a taste of US poultry, they're going to want more of it," US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement, adding that it was a top priority for the Trump administration to open new markets for agricultural products.

In Rabat, Morocco's agriculture and fisheries ministry said the deal covered frozen poultry products and permitted shipments of 8,958 tonnes in 2018, describing this as equivalent to 1.3 percent of Morocco's poultry product consumption.

The deal stipulated that the US imports have health and Islamic Halal certificates, the ministry said in a statement, adding that the accord followed a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries that entered into force in 2006.

The United States is the world's second-largest poultry exporter after Brazil, with global sales of poultry meat and products of $4.3 billion last year.

The announcement comes at a time when many US farmers are feeling pressure from retaliatory tariffs on US agricultural products that have been levied by China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico and other countries in response to Washington's tariffs on steel, aluminium and $34 billion worth of Chinese goods.