U.S. ends limits on Canada poultry imports imposed after bird flu

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Agriculture Department on Tuesday lifted restrictions on imports of poultry and poultry products from Ontario, Canada, in the latest sign the farm sector is starting to recover from a severe outbreak of bird flu.

The USDA limited imports from Ontario in April after a deadly strain of the disease was detected on a turkey farm in the province.

Effective immediately, the restrictions will be removed on imports of products ranging from live poultry and research birds to hatching eggs, the agency said in a notice.

The bird flu infected farms in Canada and has killed more than 48 million turkeys and chickens in the United States since late December. The losses have pushed U.S. egg prices to record highs and squeezed turkey supplies ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

No new infections of the virus have been found in the United States for more than two months, and some farmers whose flocks were affected have started the slow process of restocking barns. For large egg producers, the rebuilding process could take up to two years.

The rebuilding process could last even longer if the virus re-emerges this fall when wild ducks, which carry the disease, begin their seasonal migrations.

Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by James Dalgleish