Chicken thighs and drumsticks©EM Welch/Rex

South Africa will once again accept poultrymeat imports from the UK, a move that will come as a relief to poultry producers who lost their main market for dark cuts of the meat.

The country blocked all imports from the UK when avian influenza hit a Yorkshire duck-breeding farm in November last year.

While Britain’s export certificates allow for regionalisation – not trading with a region hit by a disease outbreak, in this case East Riding – South Africa decided not to accept this, blocking all imports.

“Exceptional” payment to French poultry farmers

French poultry producers will receive an exceptional CAP payment of €15m (£10.9m) to support their export industry, hit by the loss of refunds in 2013.

The country was the main benefactor of EU subsidies that supported the export of produce that were gradually removed over a number of years.

Poultry was the last category to lose these tariffs, but in 2013 the French industry received 93.7% of the €55m (£39.9m) budget.

It is understood that the country has benefited from Germany, the Netherlands and the UK having markets closed by AI.

But in the past 12 months the loss of export subsidies has resulted in the closure of some slaughterhouses.

The emergency funding is aimed at improving competitiveness.

See also: The UK’s chief vet dissects AI outbreaks

It was thought that imports would not resume until at least 14 May when the UK would be declared officially free of high-path avian influenza.

Máire Burnett, of the British Poultry Council, said regaining access was an example of industry and government working together, but getting countries to accept regionalisation would continue to be worked on.

She also highlighted that poultry slaughtered before 22 February would not be accepted, meaning some frozen produce may still not find a home.

Exports to South Africa had been steadily growing, added Ms Burnett, and it would have been interesting to see where volumes would have been without the setback.

Imports form an important way to access more value from the carcase, as in Britain consumers tend to opt for breastmeat, lowering the value of darker cuts.

Agricultural minister for Northern Ireland, Michelle O’ Neill, said the move was welcome. 

“Our local poultry industry is a major employer and our poultrymeat exports are a key tenet in achieving our growth targets.

“I have been working hard on behalf of industry to resolve this issue and I am pleased that my efforts have yielded a positive result for the north’s poultry producers.”