South Korea bans US poultry imports over bird flu scare
Reuters (Representational Image)

South Korea's agriculture ministry said on Monday that it will ban imports of US poultry after a strain of H7 bird flu virus was confirmed at a US chicken farm, cutting shipments from its main supplier during a current egg shortage.

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

The ministry said in the statement that the import ban will take effect from March 6. The statement also noted that only live poultry and eggs are subject to the ban, but heat-treated chicken meat and egg products can still be imported.

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

According to ministry data, South Korea has shipped in nearly 1,049 tonnes of US eggs as of now. The shipment accounted for more than 98 per cent of its total egg imports as of March 3.

Last year in June, South Korea resumed US poultry imports after imposing a ban in early 2016 when a number of bird flu cases were detected in the United States.

However, the resumption of the US import ban means that South Korea can import chicken meat from Brazil, Chile, Australia, Canada, the Philippines and Thailand. But, live poultry imports are limited to farm birds from New Zealand, Australia and Canada.