South Korea lifts ban on US poultry

By Bill Tomson

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WASHINGTON, July 15, 2016 - South Korea has agreed to lift the ban the ban it placed on U.S. poultry in reaction to outbreaks of avian influenza last year and earlier this year.

The decision means that U.S. exporters are now able to ship chicken and turkey to South Korea so long as the poultry was processed after June 1, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today.

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The announcement was welcomed by the U.S. poultry industry.

“We're pleased that the market has reopened to our products, which are in high demand in South Korea,” said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council. He said that in 2014, the last full year of access to South Korea before it banned all U.S. poultry products, U.S. chicken exports were valued at $98.2 million and turkey shipments at $7.4 million, making it the 14th-largest market for chicken and the sixth-biggest turkey export market.

Now that South Korea has lifted its ban, U.S. poultry industry representatives say they hope the USDA will be able to persuade the Asian country to stop its policy of issuing blanket bans on all U.S. poultry in the event of a localized detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Last year, after several outbreaks of the virus, many countries did enforce regional bans on U.S. poultry only from trouble spots, while allowing shipments from areas that were not affected.

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South Korea and China were two major importers that banned all poultry. South Korea stopped its poultry imports in early 2015 during the initial outbreaks. The country then lifted the ban in November only to put it back in place less than two months after avian influenza was detected in Indiana in January.

“Our major concern is that Korea has yet to adopt a policy of regionalization for avian influenza,” Sumner said. “This means that if another detection of highly pathogenic AI were to occur at a single poultry farm in the U.S., Korea would immediately impose a nationwide ban on imports of U.S. poultry.”

A USDA official said the department will work with South Korea to try and avoid future nationwide restrictions.”

National Chicken Council spokesman Tom Super said the industry appreciates the work that USDA and lawmakers have done to get South Korea to lift its ban, but he also stressed that China continues its ban on all U.S. poultry.

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