S.Korea bans U.S. poultry imports over bird flu scare

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SEOUL (March 6): South Korea will ban imports of U.S. poultry after a strain of H7 bird flu virus was confirmed at a U.S. chicken farm, the agriculture ministry said on Monday, cutting shipments from its main supplier during a current egg shortage.

A case of the highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza was found on Sunday in a chicken breeder flock on a Tennessee farm contracted to U.S. food giant Tyson Foods Inc.

The import ban will take effect from March 6, the agriculture ministry said in a statement. Live poultry and eggs are subject to the ban, while heat-treated chicken meat and egg products can still be imported, the statement noted.

South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, has been importing eggs from the United States as its worst-ever bird flu outbreak has tightened the country's egg supplies.

So far this year South Korea has shipped in nearly 1,049 tonnes of U.S. eggs, according to ministry data, accounting for more than 98 percent of its total egg imports as of March 3.

South Korea resumed U.S. poultry imports in June last year after imposing a ban in early 2016 when bird flu cases were detected in the United States.

The resumption of the U.S. import ban means South Korea can import chicken meat from Brazil, Chile, Australia, Canada, the Philippines and Thailand.

Live poultry imports are limited to farm birds from New Zealand, Australia and Canada.