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LIVESTOCK MARKETS: U.S. egg industry to help ease egg shortage in South Korea

Highly pathogenic avian influenza continues to wreak havoc on industry.

South Korea's poultry and egg industry continues to grapple with the devastation caused by highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and announced this week that it has made a deal with the U.S. to import shell eggs.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson told Feedstuffs that USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), with input from the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service and Food & Drug Administration, completed discussions related to the export of shell eggs (table eggs) to the Republic of Korea (ROK) but said liquid eggs are still under negotiation.

“Instructions for certification procedures have been distributed to field personnel for immediate implementation,” USDA said. “It should be noted that any company that desires to export these commodities to the ROK must first complete the application process for registered foreign establishments doing business with companies in ROK.”

The additional documentation is the responsibility of the exporter and will not be verified by AMS at the time of certification but must be approved by ROK prior to application for entry, USDA added.

“As the Republic of Korea battles its worst outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in its history, the situation is not unlike it was for the U.S. poultry and egg industry in 2015, which also experienced its worst HPAI event ever,” the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) told Feedstuffs. “In Korea's case, its egg industry has been hardest hit, with up to 30% of its total flock of egg-laying hens culled in an attempt to stop the outbreak.”

USAPEEC said the U.S. egg industry was also hard hit in 2015, but so was the turkey industry. “Korea does not have appreciable domestic turkey production, however, so its egg industry is bearing the brunt of the outbreak, which has created a huge shortage of fresh table eggs.”

Because the U.S. had never exported table eggs to Korea, USAPPEC said the two governments had to quickly work out the technical and veterinary issues to enable ROK's import of U.S. eggs.

“Thanks to the quick work of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and the Foreign Agricultural Service, the U.S. and Korean governments were able to hammer out all these issues in a matter of a couple of weeks to allow AMS to issue the necessary export certificates,” the council said.

While some forms of U.S. processed egg products (mainly dried) were approved for export to ROK, other forms were ineligible, such as some liquid products, USAPEEC explained, adding, “The two governments also worked out agreements to allow those products to be exported, which will help with shortages of these products that have affected Korean food manufacturers.”

Shortages of some processed egg products also occurred during the HPAI incident in the U.S. in 2015. This forced some U.S. food manufacturers to turn to egg substitutes to make certain formulations of their products — with less-than-satisfactory results. “As soon as supplies were available, the food makers returned to eggs," USAPEEC said. "We suspect the same would hold true for Korea, and its food processors can quickly source U.S. products, which is a much better option than reformulating their recipes.”

As Korea is now experiencing an egg deficit, USPEEC said the U.S. industry finds itself with a surplus of eggs as a result of its efforts to re-establish layer populations that were decimated by HPAI in 2015.

“Because of the improving trade policy relationship with Korea, our industry is pleased to be in a position to support Korea with shipments of table eggs and egg products. We're hopeful that egg consumption in Korea does not decline appreciably because of its avian influenza situation,” the council said.

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