WASHINGTON – The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) said a regionalization agreement with the South Korean government allows for trade restrictions at the state level instead of the country level during future outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

“The US now becomes the world’s most reliable supplier of poultry products to Korea,” said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Council (USAPEEC). “No other country has such a regionalization agreement with Korea. We should now become their No. 1 outside supplier of chicken, turkey, eggs and egg products.”

An outbreak of HPAI in 2014 and 2015 cost the US poultry industry an estimated $4.2 billion in lost exports and US domestic sales, the National Chicken Council (NCC) reported. Roughly $387 million, or 9.2 percent, of that total can be attributed to South Korea.

Based on data from 2014, the last full year without any HPAI-related trade restrictions in place, South Korea was the 10th largest market for US poultry products. That year, South Korea purchased $122 million in US poultry and products, including eggs. The regionalization agreement, USDA said, will enhance the trade relationship between the US and South Korea by preventing a repeat of the trade restrictions implanted in 2015 when South Korea banned all US poultry, poultry products and eggs because of HPAI. South Korea lifted its most recent HPAI-related ban on imports of US poultry, poultry products and fresh eggs, imposed in response to an HPAI outbreak in March 2017.

“Trade is critical for the health of American agriculture, and to support vibrant rural economies. Keeping markets open to exports of US poultry is an important part of that story,” said USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney. “This success with South Korea, a top ten market already for poultry products, means we will continue to grow exports to a critical market.”

NCC President Mike Brown said, “The US has one of the most stringent surveillance, eradication and monitoring programs in the world when it comes to avian disease.”

South Korea also is the second-largest importer of US beef and beef products with 17 percent of US beef and beef products exported there in 2016. Average exports to South Korea climbed to $6.37 billion in value during the three-year period after the US-Korea Trade Agreement (KORUS) went into force in 2012, according to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). The bump in export dollars from US-Korea trade is largely due to tariff reduction and the lifting on non-tariff barriers, and agricultural exports to South Korea will continue to expand as additional tariffs are phased out.