Background Information: Poultry Sector

The Impact of EU Poultry Sector Policies on Sub-Saharan African Countries (1)


Given rising food demand the poultry sector offers considerable cope for rural transformation. This arises primarily not  through the formal wage employment generated on poultry farms and in poultry processing facilities but through the development of local poultry feed supply chains. However these opportunities for transformation  are being undermined by growing exports of residual, low cut poultry parts to mainly African ACP markets. The EU plays a major and expanding role in this trade, with the preferential treatment negotiated for EU exporters under reciprocal trade agreements with African countries playing a  major role in the expansion of EU poultry meat exports. The EU’s restrictive poultry import regime also plays a major role in promoting EU poultry meat exports. This raises important issues of policy coherence for the EU.

Consideration should be given to the promotion of the responsibly interpretation and application of the commitments entered into by ACP governments with regard to the use of non-tariff trade policy measures and the establishment of a ‘Code of Conduct for Responsible Trade in Poultry Parts’, aimed at addressing both the adverse developmental and health effects of the current EU trade in poultry parts.


Consumption of poultry meat, in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), mostly in the form of chicken meat,  increased 99% between 2004 and 2014. However while domestic SSA production has increased only 57%, imports have increased a massive 209%. By 2014 imports of poultry meat accounted for 44% of SSA consumption compared to under 30% in 2004. (2)

Rapidly expanding SSA demand for poultry meat is not stimulating local poultry meat production as much as might be expected. Overseas exporters are grabbing an important share of growing urban markets for poultry meat, particularly in coastal states. It can be argued patterns of international trade in chicken meat are generating a disconnect between growing urban demand in SSA for low cost protein and local production of chickens. This in turn prevents the development of local poultry feed supply chains, which can create major new income earning opportunities for smallholder grain producers (see box).

The Case of the Mozambican Poultry Sector

In Mozambique initiatives were launched within the framework of the governments ‘Priorities for Agriculture Development’ policy, which saw the share of imports in poultry meat consumption fall from 67% in 2005 to 25% in 2011, with minimal official imports subsequently. This expansion of the Mozambican poultry sector has benefited from the maintenance of Avian Flu related import controls, initially introduced to avert any danger of disease transmission to domestic flocks. These import controls prevent the official import of poultry meat into Mozambique. These restrictions on poultry imports, alongside better organization within the poultry sector has seen domestic poultry meat production grow rapidly in response to increased domestic demand.

In 2010 it was estimated that since the introduction of import restriction in 2005, the Mozambican poultry sector had generated more than 70,000 new jobs in the poultry value chain. This consisted of:

·       3,000 new jobs in poultry processing (taking the total to 3,385);

·       the establishment of 5,000 new smallholder poultry (bringing the total to 5,333); and

·        64,800 new income earning opportunities for smallholder feed grain producers (taking the total number of freed grain producers serving poultry meat production in Mozambique to 86,400).

While the EU chicken sector receives no direct financial assistance, it has benefitted from wider processes of CAP reform involving a move to direct aid payments to farmers, which has lowered the cost of grains and oilseed used in the production of poultry feed. This has considerably reduced previously high EU poultry feed costs (which account for 70% of costs in poultry meat production).

More importantly however EU chicken producers benefit from a tightly managed, high tariff, import regime, with imports largely restricted to the tariff rate quotas (TRQs) made available in line with the EU’s WTO market access obligations and bilateral trade agreement. (3) In addition the EU poultry trade regime also benefits from the use of a special safeguard mechanism. This trade regime allows a level of cross subsidisation of poultry meat exports which enabled the EU to expand total poultry meat exports by 84 % between 2007 and 2016, despite the closure of the Russian market in 2014. (4) This expansion of exports occurred despite average EU poultry production costs being substantially higher than the poultry production costs in the EU’s major international competitors.

In addition, in the case of SSA, EU chicken meat exports largely consist of low cost frozen chicken parts and offal, for which there is little market in the EU. So long as prices received for these chicken parts exceed the transportation costs minus the costs of alternative disposal of these unwanted parts, this trade will thrive. This meant that in 2014 the average unit cost of EU exports of frozen chicken parts and offal exported to Sub Saharan Africa was only 41% of the average export price of fresh uncut chickens (€0.9/kg compared to €2.2/kg). (6)

While all these EU poultry sector support measures are compatible with current interpretations of WTO rules, this does not mean the EU chicken meat regime has no adverse effects on poultry producers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

As EU consumption of chicken breast meat has increased, so this trade in chicken parts and offal to Sub-Saharan Africa has risen dramatically. Between 2007 and 2014 EU consumption of poultry meat (mainly chicken breast) has increased 10.1% (+1.166 million tonnes) with EU exports of poultry meat increasing 72% (+564,000 tonnes). However during this period EU exports of frozen cuts and offal (tariff heading 020714) increased a massive 132% (+479,192 tonnes). (6) This expansion of exports of frozen chicken parts and offal which has increasingly targeted SSA markets, would appear to be holding back the rate of expansion of domestic SSA poultry production in response to rising consumer demand, not only in markets targeted by EU exporters but also neighbouring regional markets.

Just five SSA markets now account for 1 in every 3 tonnes of extra-EU poultry meat exports. (6) The specific patterns of this trade are driven by the poultry sector trade policies adopted by individual SSA governments. However, recently concluded trade agreements between the EU and a range of SSA governments appear to be limiting the ability of governments to use traditional poultry sector trade policy tools (tariff increases within WTO bound ceilings, import licences, infant industry protection, TRQs etc).

In the context of recent EU trade agreement, disposal of unwanted frozen chicken parts and offal, at prices which bear little relationship to production costs in the EU is a major source of concern in SSA countries seeking to take advantage of rising local demand to develop local chicken production through the use of traditional agricultural trade policy tools. EU exports in the emerging trade policy context, have the potential to undermine government and private sector efforts to develop local chicken meat production in an increasing number of SSA countries.

This raises important issues of policy coherence, given the promotion of agriculture and rural development as a focal sector for EU development cooperation activities in SSA countries. Issues of policy coherence also arise from the discrepancy between EU trade policy practice  in the poultry sector, where a strictly managed trade regime is in force, and EU trade policy prescriptions, which are demanding the systematic elimination of both tariff and non-tariff barriers to imports of poultry meat from the EU.

At the WTO level this highlights the importance of promoting further discussions of the concept of a ‘Right to Development’ advanced by Joseph Stiglitz and Andrew Charlton in 2013. (7) Within this concept the proposal was advanced to limit ‘the applicability of WTO obligations when the enforcement of such obligations would have a significant adverse effect on development’. It also proposed this should apply to commitments entered into under bilateral trade agreements. This is an important debate in the EU context given the legally binding commitment enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty to promoting Policy Coherence for Developments (PCD). In its commentary on Article 208 the EC maintains ‘the coherence clause is of the greatest importance as it will help in changing EU policies such as agriculture or fisheries so that they do not run counter to development objectives’.


  • Given the importance of the locally applied import regime for poultry meat to actual patterns of EU poultry meat exports and the extent to which EU bilateral trade agreements are seeking to limit the use of non-tariff measures in the poultry sector in sub-Saharan Africa, the EU needs to get to grips with the policy coherence issues arising in its the poultry sector trade with sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Developments in the EU’s trade in poultry meat with sub-Saharan Africa since 2007, highlights the need for the establishment of operational mechanisms for ensuring full respect for the EU’s legal obligation to ensure policy coherence for development, through the elaboration and application of the concept of a ‘right to development’.
  • This suggests a need to incorporate into any Post-Cotonou trade cooperation framework between the EU and ACP countries a recognition of the importance of flexibility in the application of EPA commitments in sub-Saharan Africa in line with the economic realities and aspirations for the development of their sub-Saharan African agro-food sectors.
  • In the poultry sector there is a need to look at ways of structuring current trade in ways which are complementary to and supportive of local efforts to promote more competitive integrated and sustainable chicken production, capable of meeting growing demand for low priced protein.
  • Consideration should be given to the promotion of a ‘Code of Conduct for Responsible Trade in Poultry Parts’, aimed at addressing both the adverse developmental and health effects of the trade in poultry parts.


(1) Initiativet for Handel og Udvikling, ‘The Impact of EU Poultry Sector Policies on Sub-Saharan African  Countries’, November 2015

Research for these analytical papers posted by  Initiativet for Handel og Udvikling  in November 2015 was financed by ActionAid Denmark in the summer of 2015.

(2), ‘USDA International Egg and Poultry: Sub-Saharan Africa’, 17 July 2014,

(3) Agritrade, ‘The EU’s agricultural policy toolbox: A sector-by-sector review’, special report, 13 December 2011,

(4) EC, ‘Prospects for Agricultural Markets and Income in the European Union’

(5) EC, ‘Short-Term Outlook for EU arable crops, dairy and meat markets in 2015 and 2016’, Autumn 2015,

(6) EC Market Access Data Base

(7) Joseph Stiglitz and Andrew Charlton, ‘The right to trade: Rethinking the aid for trade agenda’


Additional Background Materials on the Evolution of EU Poultry Policy

Agritrade, ‘Executive Brief Update – 2013: Poultry sector’, 17 December 2013

Agritrade, ‘Executive Brief Update 2012: Poultry sector’, 1 August 2012

Agritrade, ‘Executive Brief Update 2011: Poultry sector’, 15 November 2011