Trade groups and the USDA expressed hope that the next step will be an agreement to limit the geographic scope of bans that come in response to future bird flu outbreaks.
South Korea has lifted its ban on import of US poultry and related products, the US Department of Agriculture announced late last week.
Instituted in March following the discovery of a highly pathogenic avian influenza strain in Tennessee, the move comes after the US officially notified the World Organization for Animal Health on August 11 that it was free of the virus.
In a statement, US Agriculture Secretary Sunny Purdue called the lifting of the import ban “just the first step”, highlighting his desire to reach an agreement with South Korea that would see it respond to future bird flu outbreaks with restrictions limited to imports from affected regions.
“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,” Purdue said. “Our hope is that Korean officials will recognize that our system works well and will move towards a regional approach of any future findings of bird flu.”
In a joint statement, American Egg Board president and chief executive Anne L. Alonzo and USA Poultry & Egg Export Council president Jim Sumner said that said that they looked forward to working with South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to “implement regionalization.”
South Korea is the 10th largest export market for US poultry exports, according to the USDA, which said that the imposition of the ban contributed to reducing those exports’ earnings from $122 million in 2014 to just $39 million last year.
South Korea’s lifting of the ban is thought to be partly motivated by its own bird flu challenges and resulting egg shortage. Late last year, discovery of bird flu inside South Korea led to a culling of more than 30 million birds that produced a shortage in the domestic supply of eggs. Under the terms of the agreement announced last week, US eggs will enter South Korea duty free for the remainder of 2017.
In a July report, the USDA’s Economic Research Service said that South Korea and the United Arab Emirates were the main demand drivers for a 29 percent year-on-year increase in US egg exports in May. South Korea imported 1.8 million dozen eggs that month, despite the ban on US poultry imports, under a January agreement with the US designed to bolster egg supply in light of domestic supply challenges.