Local broiler group to Dar: Check online poultry sale

In Photo: This file photo shows chickens from a backyard facility in Central Luzon.

LOCAL broiler producers on Wednesday urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to investigate the reported sale of illegal poultry meat online, which could be hosts of animal diseases.

In an open letter addressed to Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, the United Broiler Raisers Association (Ubra) lamented the DA’s recent pronouncements that smuggling continues to occur despite having a “high level” of quarantine measures.

Ubra cited the BusinessMirror story in its letter that reported the DA’s appeal for smugglers to stop smuggling illegal pork products from banned countries like China to avert entry of animal diseases. See  DA: Stop pork smuggling to prevent entry of new swine flu, in the BusinesMirror, July 3, 2020.

The group asked Dar to “refrain from making appeals to importers and smugglers not to import banned meat and meat products from China.” “It is not only strange but it further emboldens those who are already breaking the law to do it some more,” the letter, dated July 7, read.

“In the first place, if the country really has a ‘high level’ of quarantine measures, then it is not necessary to make any appeal,” the letter added.

On July 2, the DA said Dar’s appeal to traders is to “be vigilant and there should not be any smuggling of pork and pork products from China,” in light of reports of new swine flu strain discovered in the East Asian country dubbed as G4, that could trigger a pandemic.

The DA said it is asking the businesses that smuggle illegal pork and pork products through the country’s seaports to stop their unscrupulous trade to protect the local livestock industries from animal diseases.

Despite having a “high level” of quarantine measures, the DA said some smugglers are still able to continue their practice of bringing in illegal meat products, which serve as a pathway for the entry of animal diseases such as African Swine Fever.

Illegal poultry meat trade

Ubra said the lack of a sound trade data system makes it hard for the government to address unfair trade and smuggling.

Worse, the group added, the government does not have physical facilities at customs borders to “effectively prevent the entry of diseases.”

“We need both for our quarantine personnel to perform their duties well. There is no need to belabor here the devastation wrought by the African Swine Fever. A massive failure by the Bureau of Animal industry,” it said.

Ubra also questioned the DA on the status of its P2 billion worth of “modern” quarantine facilities that it promised to build to curb smuggling of agricultural goods and prevent entry of pests and transboundary animal diseases in the country.

“Last year, the President funded the construction of the first border cold-chain-ready quarantine facilities at the Bureau of Customs. What is the status of that project?” it asked.

“The absence of such facilities precludes any claim of a ‘high level’ of quarantine,” it added.

Last year, the DA said the Duterte cabinet approved the construction of five integrated border facilities, which cost about P400 million each, in Manila, Batangas, Bataan, Cebu and Davao. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2019/12/23/das-p2-b-facility-to-fight-smuggling-in-use-by-2020)

Ubra also asked the DA to verify reports that poultry products, which are banned or are traded in an unlawful manner, are being sold openly online.

Ubra attached photos of these various products being sold through Viber and Instagram, including Hong Kong pigeon, imported frozen chicken offals with claimed 24 months of shelf life, thawed imported chicken leg quarters, thawed mechanically deboned meat of chicken, chicken products from Brazil with a shell life claim of 2 years, among others.

Citing industry sources, Ubra said the shelf life claims made by the poultry meat sellers were “unbelievable.”

“For whole chickens that were blast frozen directly from the line and with no break in the cold chain, the maximum shelf life until consumption is twelve months,” it said.

“If the chickens were cut into pieces, the shelf life is reduced to six months due to additional handling at above freezing temperature during cutting,” it added.

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