EU Importers Want More Thai Chicken

THAILAND & EU - EU poultry meat importers are reported to be calling for an end to the import quota on Thai chicken.
calendar icon 20 October 2011
clock icon 4 minute read

European Union importers and buyers want the European Commission to consider increasing the amount of Thai chicken that can be imported under quota, or even doing away with the restriction altogether, arguing that it is has led to higher prices for consumers, according to The Nation of Thailand.

Betagro Group's trading partners in United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany complained during the recent Anuga Fair 2011 that the quota restriction had left them facing higher costs, as they sometimes had to buy quota from other traders in order to meet their import requirements of Thai chicken. They also said that most EU importers awarded part of the quota were not in fact using their allocation, but were instead selling all or part of it to businesses that needed it.

Thai chicken exports to the EU have been limited under quota to 160,000 tonnes per year since the widespread outbreak of avian influenza in 2003 resulted in the prohibition of raw-chicken imports.

The EU import tariff for under-quota chicken is 10.8 per cent.

Although the EU is a large market for Thai chicken exports, sales have been restricted under the quota, prompting the EU to shift to importing more from Brazil and Argentina.

Hanns Hendrik Sievers, chief executive officer of Sievers Foods in Germany, said the EU Poultry Importers Association had sought negotiations with the European Commission for an additional quota. However, the matter has not yet moved forward in Brussels.

He said: "The quota is hampering our business and presents a great problem due to the additional cost," adding that "it's hard to increase [business] and the quota is too small. There should [ideally] be no quota [at all]".

The importer of cooked meat has imported Thai chicken for nine years and distributes in Germany and neighbouring countries. However, the EU's economic downtrend has not affected its imports and financial status, he said, adding that it would import more from Betagro.

Hein Willenkens, chief executive officer of Kappers Foods St Anthonis in the Netherlands, said Thailand should negotiate with the European Commission with a view to getting the quota increased.

He said importers in the EU had to adjust their import strategy in order to reduce the higher costs resulting from the quota restriction. They have to maximise benefit by importing value-added goods under quota. "The quota restriction involves a lot of politics," he added.

Mr Willenkens said the EU would import more chicken overall as the number of members increased, despite the current economic contraction having delayed some imports.

Miles Levy, managing director of OakField Foods of the UK, said many traders holding the import quota had traded it as a commercial business. He said the quota system was designed to protect the local market and consumers, therefore there needed to be better arrangements in place to avoid the need for such activity.

"It is not a fair quota system when [allocated to] importers that need no import quota," said Levy, adding that importers also wanted to see the under-quota import levy lifted.

Ingemar Nydahl, area export manager of Ess Foods of Sweden, told The Nation that traders holding the quota had sold their allocation at an average price of €550 (23,120 Thai baht; THB) per tonne, resulting in other importers having to shoulder additional costs.

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