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South Korea's chicken soup exports to China stop amid bird flu, ban

Staff Writer |
South Korea's exports of chicken soup to China have almost stopped amid the outbreak of bird flu and China's growing nontariff barriers.

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South Korea has culled more than 30 million chickens since the outbreak of the avian influenza in November, and by contract Seoul is not allowed to ship soups made with chickens near bird flu-infected areas to China, although heat-treated chicken soups are safe.

China has banned imports of cosmetics and several other South Korean products since late last year when Seoul announced plans to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on South Korean soil despite strong opposition from Beijing.

Exports of samgyetang to China decreased to 5.5 tons last month, down 92.3 percent from a month earlier, according to figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Virtually no samgyetang has been shipped to China since late December, a ministry official said, citing lack of the demand for samgyetang in China since the bird flu outbreak and the THAAD row.

Known as a stamina food especially during hot summers, samgyetang is a traditional Korean chicken soup made with a whole young chicken stuffed with ginseng, sticky rice and garlic.

Two South Korean firms, including Harim, South Korea's largest poultry processing firm, and Sajo Fine Korea are still qualified to ship samgyetang to China, as they use chickens from areas not affected by the bird flu.

They, however, suffer from protracted quarantine and hygiene procedures which take more than two months recently from less than two weeks before, industry source said.

"We don't have any idea of why the procedures take longer than before," a source said.

An official from Daesang Corp, a major food processing company, said his company exported 12 tons of samgyetang to China in August last year, but has since suspended shipping as China stopped issuing quarantine certificates.

CJ Cheiljedang, a food unit of the CJ Group, said it has halted plans to export samgyetang to China.

South Korea exported 190 tons of samgyetang worth $850,000 to China last year.

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