Market News & Headlines >> South Korea Bans U.S. Poultry Imports on Flu Concerns

South Korea on Saturday suspended imports of U.S. poultry and poultry products following the discovery of an outbreak of bird flu in wild migratory birds in the state of Washington, while Hong Kong announced a very limited import ban on Monday.

South Korea’s suspension of imports from the U.S. comes as it struggles to contain its own outbreak of bird flu in birds. "This import suspension is a quarantine measure to prevent the HPAI virus from entering the country," South Korea’s agriculture ministry said in a statement, referring to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus.

The ministry said 18 countries including South Korea had been hit by the HPAI virus this year. South Korea has had no human cases.

Two strains of avian influenza - H5N2 and H5N8 – were confirmed in wild birds in Whatcom County, Washington near the U.S. border with Canada. Neither virus has been found in U.S. commercial poultry. In addition, the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain was confirmed in guinea fowl and chickens in a backyard poultry flock in the city of Winston, Oregon.

Hong Kong's import ban applies only to poultry meat, and other poultry products including eggs, from Douglas County, Oregon, where Winston is located, according to a statement posted by its Centre for Food Safety on its web site.

South Korea's imports from the United States in the first 11 months of the year included 63,245 metric tons (about 13.983 million pounds) of poultry meat and 264,000 chicks, according to ministry data.

The South Korean ag ministry said the import suspension would not cause a shortage as this month’s domestic poultry meat production is projected to be up 17.5% from a year earlier to 67,000 metric tons on top of 9,000 tons in inventory.