The potential market for U.S. chicken in Russia has been cut by nearly 20 percent for 2009.

Under a revised trade agreement signed Dec. 29, Russia’s quota for poultry imports from the U.S. is 750,000 tons this year, down from 931,500 tons stipulated in a previous agreement. 

Russia is the top export market for U.S. poultry producers. Georgia is the top state in the U.S. for poultry exports and Russia is Georgia’s top export customer.

From January to September 2008, Georgia producers shipped 33,888 tons of poultry to Russia, valued at $37.3 million, according to the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council headquartered in Stone Mountain.

Metro Atlanta is home to a long list of companies, such as AJC International Inc. and MetaFoods LLC specializing in the export of frozen poultry and other meats.

“Atlanta is at the center of the poultry exporting universe,” said Toby Moore, export council spokesman. “We’re aware of no other city in the world that has such a large number of exporters.”

Economists and leaders of the U.S. poultry industry have been warning that the trend lines were heading down for the Russian chicken market.

“Russia is increasing its domestic production by double digits each year,” said Mr. Moore.

Rajeev Dhawan, director of Georgia State University’s Economic Forecasting Center warned in November that the decline in the price of oil and in the value of the ruble would cause Russia to reduce the amount of chicken it buys from other countries.

The U.S. poultry industry is working to build other world markets, Mr. Moore said. Jim Sumner, president of the export council, e-mailed GlobalAtlanta about the lower Russian quotas while on his way to China.

“China will be the leading market for U.S. poultry exports in the coming years,” said Mr. Moore.

Richard Lobb, spokesman for the National Chicken Council in Washington, said lower Russian import quotas were expected. The quota numbers in the Dec. 29 agreement are not as severe as they might have been, Mr. Lobb said.

“It could have been worse,” he said. “This provides some certainty.”

Mr. Lobb said in 2008, U.S. poultry sales to Russia were about 760,000 tons, which was below the 2008 quota of 901,400 tons. Sales in 2009 could be comparable to 2008 levels, Mr. Lobb predicted.