In an unprecedented action aimed at curbing a steep price hike caused by avian influenza, South Korean eased trade restrictions to import fresh eggs and egg products with zero percent duties.
The temporary move was approved by the cabinet on Tuesday to allow fast imports of 98,000 tons of shell eggs, powdered eggs and six other types of egg products without tariffs between Wednesday and June 30.
Previously, some eight to 30 percent tariffs have been levied, and more imports are possible after the suspension of tariff duties expires on June 30. This is South Korea's first bulk purchase of foreign fresh eggs that will be allocated through state-controlled bodies. South Korea is in trade talks with the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Spain.
The worst outbreak of bird flu has ravaged chicken farms, causing a serious short supply of eggs. South Korea's daily egg output has decreased by more than 20 percent. Bakery chains and food manufacturers using eggs have stopped or reduced the production of some products.
Consumers and distributors have hoarded eggs on the assumption that prices would stay high throughout the first quarter of this year due to a sharp fall in laying hen numbers.
Since H5N6, a new type of virus, was detected first on November 16, more than 30 million chickens and ducks have been slaughtered and buried. H5N6 has caused a higher mortality rate than previous cases.