MUSCAT, OMAN - Governor Terry McAuliffe visited Oman this weekend during his trade and marketing mission to India and the Middle East to celebrate the lifting of the country’s ban on poultry imports from Virginia and many other states. The announcement followed several months of discussions between the Governor's office and the Embassy of Oman, including Oman’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Hunaina Sultan Al-Mughairy, and culminated in meetings Sunday between Governor McAuliffe and Oman's Ministers of Commerce & Industry and Agricultural Affairs & Fish Resources.
"This is another great win in the international market for Virginia's agriculture industry," said Governor McAuliffe. "As we begin to place a strategic focus on the Middle East, I am pleased to open access once again for our poultry producers to a growing export destination. I want to thank Ambassador Al-Mughairy and the government of Oman for working with us and our federal partners at the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) to end the country's ban on poultry from Virginia. It's steps like these that will keep Virginia agricultural producers competitive in the world market and lead Virginia to become the East Coast capital for agricultural and forestry exports."
Following meetings with senior Oman government officials, Governor McAuliffe and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore led discussions with several Oman poultry importers regarding the ban being lifted and purchases of significant amounts of poultry products. Information gathered from these meetings will be shared with Virginia poultry companies producing and exporting halal-certified products and whole birds.
Speaking about the lifting of the ban, Secretary Haymore remarked, "We understand every country's desire to protect its food supply. However, given that Virginia has not been affected by avian influenza and its poultry is among the safest and highest quality in the country, we greatly appreciate that Oman recognized our position and lifted its ban on our products. In addition to facilitating dialogue between Virginia exporters and international buyers, we're committed to working with foreign governments to encourage similar moves that provide both access to our high quality agricultural products and allow for increased opportunities for Virginia's producers and exporters."
In May 2015, Oman banned imports of all U.S. poultry in response to an outbreak of avian influenza in several western and midwestern states. At the same time, Governor McAuliffe, Secretary Haymore, and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services staff began discussions regarding Oman's poultry ban with Ambassador Al-Mughairy during a summit of more than 60 foreign ambassadors in Richmond, hosted by the U.S. Department of State and Governor McAuliffe. After educating embassy staff on the status of avian influenza in Virginia and the integrity of the Commonwealth’s poultry producers, the embassy brought the issue to the attention of its government and began discussing the idea of limiting the ban to only certain states. Following additional dialogue among the Ambassador, Governor McAuliffe and Secretary Haymore, Oman made the decision to change its policy and remove the ban on poultry imports from Virginia.
“We are pleased with this positive development and appreciate the efforts of Governor McAuliffe and USDA to reopen this market,” said Hobey Bauhan, President of the Virginia Poultry Federation.
The poultry industry is the largest segment of Virginia's agricultural industry, producing more than $1 billion in farm cash receipts, contributing $13 billion to the state's economy, and supporting 52,000 jobs, according to the Virginia Poultry Federation. In 2014, Virginia poultry producers exported more than $1 million in products to Oman, but by September 2015, Virginia poultry exports to the country were down almost 90 percent year-to-date due to the import ban. Total Virginia agriculture and forestry exports to Oman, however, have increased this year by 117 percent, led by soybean meal exports of more than $5 million.