Cuba re-opens market to Arkansas poultry

by Erica Shaffer
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A three-day trade mission to Cuba in September has paid off for two Arkansas poultry processors. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Cuba has lifted its ban on poultry produced in Arkansas, and Tyson Foods and Simmons Foods will resume trade with Cuba.

Simmons Foods recently reached an agreement to ship 3,000 metric tons of frozen chicken leg quarters to Cuba. The company said the shipment will leave in early January.

“We are very thankful for the leadership our state, and Governor Hutchinson, has shown in working to open this market,” said Mark Simmons, chairman of Simmons Foods. “We are certainly excited about this new opportunity.”

Simmons recently joined Gov. Hutchinson and a delegation of other industry leaders on an economic development trip to Cuba. Simmons Foods is one of multiple producers who will begin shipping products to Cuba. Tyson Foods can also look forward to resuming deliveries to Cuba.

“We’re glad Cuba has lifted its ban on Arkansas poultry products and applaud Gov. Hutchinson for his work to help get it done,” Worth Sparkman, Tyson spokesman, said in a statement. “Export markets like Cuba are important to the poultry industry and especially to states like Arkansas, which is the second largest chicken-producing state in the US.”

Cuba implemented the poultry ban during the bird flu outbreak. Turkey flocks and commercial egg operations were hardest hit by highly pathogenic avian influenza. Broiler chickens were not affected with the exception of export bans. Mexico, Canada and the European Union along with Cuba implemented import bans on Arkansas poultry. Most bans on Arkansas poultry have since been lifted. Arkansas ranks second in broiler production behind Georgia.
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