Poultry farmers, meat industry clash on easing of import bans

MEAT IMPORTERS’ proposals to ease the bans on poultry imports from countries reporting bird flu outbreaks could endanger domestic poultry farms because of the absence of border inspection facilities to detect contaminated meat, the poultry industry said.

Gregorio A. San Diego, Jr., chairman of the United Broiler Raisers Association, said in a mobile phone message that if the proposal is approved, it would increase the risk of poultry farms being infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza, otherwise known as bird flu.

“That would be dangerous… We do not have border inspection facilities. A lot of the exporters are consolidators. They are sourcing meat from different parts or zones of their countries and sometimes nearby countries,” Mr. San Diego said.

The food industry’s proposal is to ease blanket banks on countries with bird flu outbreaks and instead allow imports from parts of the source country with no cases of bird flu.

On March 12, the Meat Importers and Traders Association (MITA) sent a letter to the Department of Agriculture (DA) calling for the easing of poultry import bans. MITA President Jesus C. Cham said in the letter that the international health certificate accompanying the imports should indicate that testing was performed, confirming that no traces of bird flu were detected.

“The supply situation has become very tight as a result of the numerous bans. We recall that this procedure was last adopted in 2017. The approval will go a long way in ensuring the continuous supply of poultry,” Mr. Cham said in the letter.

Mr. San Diego noted that the Philippines is currently grappling with the African Swine Fever outbreak, while the economy remains weighed down by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The latest ban on poultry imports was imposed on March 5, with the suspension of shipments from the UK, after outbreaks in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Previously, the DA had banned poultry imports only from England.

Some of the other countries with outstanding poultry import bans include the Netherlands, Germany, and Poland.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar announced during a March 12 virtual briefing that the DA is looking into allowing imports from unaffected regions of a country with an ongoing outbreak.

“We are looking at the possibility of giving permits as long as we confirm that there is no incidence of the virus in these areas,” Mr. Dar said.

According to the Bureau of Animal Industry, chicken imports totaled 16.94 million kilograms as of Jan. 31. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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