The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday that the government of South Korea has lifted its ban on imports of U.S. poultry and poultry products, including fresh eggs. Korea had imposed the ban in response to a recent detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
On Aug. 11, the U.S. notified the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that it is now free of HPAI. This notification removed any justification for U.S. trading partners to restrict imports of U.S. poultry due to HPAI concerns. Korea imposes a ban on all U.S. poultry in response to any HPAI detection, so USDA continues to work with Korean officials towards limiting any future import restrictions to the affected area, consistent with OIE guidelines.
“The United States has the strongest avian influenza surveillance program in the world, and we were at once able to quickly identify, confine and control this most recent disease outbreak. Our hope is that Korean officials will recognize that our system works and will move towards a regional approach in the event of any future findings of bird flu,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. “South Korea is one of our best trading partners, and we want to continue being their most dependable supplier of high-quality food and farm products. Korea’s lifting of its most recent ban is an important move for our poultry and egg industries, but it is still just the first step.”
In 2014, the last full year without any HPAI-related trade restrictions in place, Korea purchased $122 million in U.S. poultry products, including eggs, making it the 10th-largest market for the U.S. Korea’s imports from all sources exceeded $350 million in 2016, but only $39 million came from the U.S.
Korea also announced a temporary measure that will allow U.S. eggs and egg products to enter the country duty free in the face of a shortage of domestic supplies. Earlier this year, USDA worked with Korea’s agriculture ministry to reopen the market for U.S. eggs and egg products, but imports were again restricted after the HPAI detection in Tennessee. Year-to-date exports through June have totaled $12 million, up nearly $10 million compared with the same period last year.
The National Chicken Council issued a statement thanking Perdue and USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service and Foreign Agricultural Service "for their efforts to reopen this important market to US chicken. We are hopeful that the next step will be South Korea implementing a regionalized approach to trade restrictions stemming from animal disease, consistent with OIE guidelines.”
The United Egg Producers (UEP) and its farmer-members welcomed the news of Korea lifting the poultry ban and commended the South Korean government for allowing trade to resume. "It is our sincere hope that the U.S. and South Korea will continue to work toward practical solutions that provide the foundation for regionalizing trade flows in the event of outbreaks. We are aware of the significant time and effort by USDA in securing this outcome and thank their team for working diligently to restore these valuable trade opportunities," UEP said in a statement to Feedstuffs.