WASHINGTON, March 6, 2017 – South Korea, a major poultry and egg importer, has closed its market to the U.S. in the wake of a new detection of highly pathogenic bird flu at a Tennessee broiler breeding operation, according to U.S. and Korean officials.

South Korea had no choice but to ban all U.S. poultry and eggs because the two governments have not finalized a regionalization deal that would lessen the impact of disease detections, a Korean government official told Agri-Pulse today. A USDA spokeswoman confirmed the action by South Korea.

Employees at the broiler operation, a contract grower for Tyson Foods,  noticed “unusual mortality” in one of eight barns on Thursday and testing proved the presence of high-path bird flu. USDA announced the detection on Sunday, by which time the company had destroyed the chickens in all eight barns to prevent a spread of the virus. Officials said the flock totaled some 73,500 birds.

The nationwide ban is a blow for USDA officials, who have been working for months to get in place the regional agreement. South Korea, which imported about $100 million of poultry from the U.S. in 2014, issued a nationwide ban on the U.S. in early 2015 after the bird flu virus began sweeping through U.S. egg-laying facilities and turkey farms in more than a dozen states.

That ban was lifted in July, 2016, as officials from both governments began working on a deal that would allow South Korea to narrow its future bans to just a state or region where bird the bird flu was detected.

While those talks are “nearing conclusion,” they aren't finished yet, according to a summary of the situation produced by the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) and distributed to its members.The South Korean ban became effective March 6, according to USAPEEC and covers all poultry and egg products, including hatching eggs and day-old chicks. Pasteurized egg products and cooked poultry are not included in the ban.

Jack Shere, USDA’s chief veterinarian, said the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) began notifying international trading partners of the bird flu discovery today. Shere, in an audio posting today, said no official response has been received from importers.

But news travels fast and a number of countries were quick to set restrictions, according to USAPEEC.

So far South Korea, Japan, Kuwait, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Africa and French Polynesia have already set bans. All of those countries except South Korea have enacted regional measures.

“APHIS and FAS have been exceedingly helpful to USAPEEC on the (high-path avian influenza) issue, and have been particularly good about working with us on key markets,” said USAPEEC President Jim Sumner in a statement.