DA plan to restrict importation of meat may result in WTO suit

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The Philippines may find itself in the receiving end of a complaint before the World Trade Organization (WTO) if the Department of Agriculture (DA) would push through with its plan to impose the six-month cut-off time for meat importations after the period of slaughter, warned the association of meat importers on Wednesday.

Jesus C. Cham, president of the Meat Importers and Traders Association (Mita), warned this week that foreign suppliers of meat may bring a complaint against the Philippines before the WTO if the previous pronouncement of the DA to restrict entry of imported meat to a maximum of six months after their slaughter be imposed.

“It’s very likely our foreign suppliers will stop dealing with us or bring us to the WTO to cite this as a technical barrier to trade,” Cham said in a phone interview.

Cham added that the six-month requirement previously pronounced by the DA would lead to substantial wastage, as importing meat takes an average transit time of two months, and not all the current stock of importers could be sold immediately.

“Once you start putting conditions and specifications, of course, it’ll be more difficult to bring in [meat] and will lead to scarcity. Prices will go up in this case,” Cham added.

Cham, however, refused to give estimates on the possible price adjustments that will happen if the DA plan pushes through.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala earlier in the year said in a statement there have been findings of meat importers bringing in expired meat from the United States and Canada, among other sources.

Alcala then said he will only allow the importation of meat slaughtered not more than six months. He also initiated investigation on the alleged importation of expired meat into the country.  Cham, however, countered that importers already subject shipments to clearance regulations imposed by the quarantine officers of the Bureau of Animal Industry, as well as additional scrutiny by the National Meat Inspection Service.

A green-lane facility is also being considered for importers with a good record of compliance with regulations. Products going through the green lane will undergo minimal inspection.

Cham added there is no scientific basis for the six-month limitation on the entry of imports and is against globally accepted standards.

The Mita president is hoping the pronouncement will not be imposed by the agriculture department until results of the investigation have come in.




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