The Mexican government suspended tariffs on egg imports in the face of a bird-flu outbreak that has caused the domestic price of eggs to double in the last two months, the economy secretary said.

"This measure has the aim of stabilizing the market, complementing current supply, reducing the price and guaranteeing the supply of this product," Bruno Ferrari told a press conference.

Roughly 400 tons of eggs were imported this week from the United States, he said.

Authorities have detected "speculative movements" in wholesale egg prices in Mexico, he said, citing an increase from 13.80 pesos ($1) to 27.80 pesos (almost $2) in the price of a kilo (2.2 pounds) of eggs.

Mexico has slaughtered nearly 11 million birds to prevent the spread of the AH7N3 avian flu virus, which emerged in June on poultry farms in the western state of Jalisco.

More than 88 million birds have been vaccinated against the virus and another 90 million doses of vaccine are to be administered in the second phase of the campaign, officials said.

A program to monitor the sale of eggs and chicken has already led to the opening of investigations into 1,299 retailers for possible price gouging, Ferrari said.

Offending retailers could face jail time, he said.

Mexico, according to National Poultry Producers Association figures, produces nearly 2.5 million tons of eggs and 1.2 million tons of meat annually. 

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