Bird flu-plagued South Korea agrees to buy U.S. eggs

DES MOINES, Iowa — South Korea is in the throes of a bird flu outbreak has asked the United States to ship it shell eggs, marking the first time the Asian country has sought to buy large quantities of fresh U.S. eggs.

The demand is good for a U.S. egg industry that’s awash in the product, having replenished its flocks after the 2015 bird flu outbreak and ending up with an oversupply that sent domestic prices to industry lows — about 79 cents a dozen earlier this month.

South Korea had been one of a few nations that issued a blanket ban on egg and poultry imports during the U.S.’ 2015 outbreak that resulted in the deaths of 49 million turkeys and chickens. But it seeks help now that it has lost about 26 million chickens — and a third of its egg-laying hens — to the H5N6 strain since November. It’s South Korea’s worst bird flu outbreak surpassing the 14 million birds killed in 2014.

The agreement to export shell eggs was announced Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which kept prices from sliding further, according to Urner Berry protein market analyst Brian Moscoguiri. Although deals are still being signed, Moscoguiri said he is aware of contracts for three or four airline flights of eggs — equivalent to as many as three

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