South Korea to import 1.6 million U.S. eggs after bird flu outbreak

An outbreak of bird flu in South Korea has resulted in an egg shortage, which is being addressed by a large shipment of eggs to Asia’s fourth-largest economy ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday. File Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI

SEOUL, Jan. 10 (UPI) — U.S. egg producers and the South Korean government have hatched a new plan to tackle the short supply of shell eggs in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

As part of an accelerated agreement, Korean Air is to begin freight shipments of 1.6 million eggs by air Sunday, ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday in the country, Yonhap reported.

Korean Air’s Boeing 777 aircraft will leave Los Angeles with about 100 tons of U.S. eggs, and arrive on Monday in the afternoon at Incheon International Airport, according to the report.

The agreement was negotiated between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Seoul, after South Korean farmers were forced to eliminate 30 million chickens and other birds after the presence of a bird flu virus, the H5N6, was discovered in flocks across the country, MeatPoultry.com reported Monday.

“They’re in a very desperate situation, in fact a situation similar to what we were in a year and a half ago,” said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council. “So, we certainly can feel their pain and understand their situation. We’re only too happy to try and accommodate them.”

U.S. egg producers are in favor of the quickly negotiated deal because of the current surplus of eggs in the United States.

October 2016 egg production was up 11 percent from October 2015, according to the report.

As part of the deal, South Korea waived all duties on U.S. egg products, including shell egg and liquid egg products. The agreement stands through June 2017. Seoul has offered to subsidize transportation costs, according to Sumner.

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Korean Air is also planning transport of eggs from logistics hubs in Chicago and other parts of the United States.

Sumner said a previous trade agreement would have spared two to three weeks of negotiations, but the deal now means “billions of dozens of eggs shipped.”

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