Fears of higher global poultry prices later this year have been alleviated by the sudden return of US poultry to export markets.

After going into freefall last year, global poultry prices were expected to bounce back in 2016 as a result of supply shortages following the US avian influenza outbreak.

But in its latest update, Rabobank says global prices are falling again after a “faster than expected” return of US poultry to international markets following the end of AI-related trade restrictions.

Exporters including Brazil and the EU have “aggressively” defended market share against US exports via price concessions, Rabobank adds, with average prices slashed by 20%.

A seasonal increase in demand for poultry meat and supply shortages in Asia and Mexico could still influence prices as the year progresses, but with the US expected to ramp up exports further, Rabobank says it is “fair” to expect global poultry markets to remain highly competitive for the remainder of 2016.

Asian poultry supplies are still suffering from restrictions placed on breeding stock imports from the US and EU after last year’s AI outbreaks, with China’s white broiler supplies down 20% and other Asian markets expected to feel the impact in the latter half of the year, Rabobank predicts.

Mexican poultry meat production is still struggling to recover from AI outbreaks during the winter, and the country is set to increase chicken imports by about 10% to 800,000 tonnes in 2016, compared with 722,000 tonnes last year. In Europe, average broiler prices are up slightly year on year (1%) and are likely to remain strong over the summer as demand increases, Rabobank predicts. But the return of the US as an exporter will start to challenge EU export prices, it says.