PHL partially lifts ban on Brazilian chicken meat items

Woman choosing packed chicken meat in supermarket

THE Philippines has partially lifted the import ban on Brazilian chicken meat products, a few days after the Latin American state warned that it may dispute Manila’s ban before the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Less than a month after imposing a blanket ban, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has allowed the entry of mechanically deboned meat (MDM) of chicken from Brazil on certain conditions.

Under Memorandum Order 42, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar explained that they reviewed the ban based on the documents submitted by Brazil on its measures in preventing the spread of Covid-19 in its foreign meat establishments (FMEs).

The DA banned the importation of chicken meat products from Brazil on August 14 following reports that certain samples of Brazil shipments to China tested positive for Covid-19.

Furthermore, the DA added that the high number of Covid-19 cases in Brazilian FMEs was among the key reasons for the ban, as safety of the workers in these establishments is a requirement in accrediting exporters.

“Only FMEs without Covid-19-positive meat plant workers shall be allowed to export poultry meat as provided herein in Annex A of this order,” the document read, which was released by the DA on Monday.

The DA has required Brazilian FMEs to include an additional attestation to their shipments stating that the exported product “was handled and processed in facilities with functional food safety management systems and where stringent hygiene and sanitation measures are practiced.”

Furthermore, the shipments must carry a safe handling label and all imports of MDM chicken shall be for the “sole use of an accredited meat processor in the manufacture of heat-treated products.”

“All shipments into the country not complying with foregoing conditions shall be confiscated by DA Veterinary Quarantine Officers/Inspectors at all major ports of entry,” Dar said in his order, which took effect immediately.

Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Director Ronnie D. Domingo said they lifted the ban on chicken MDM from Brazil since there is a “control mechanism” in tracing where the products are going—in this case, meat processors.

“Imported chicken cuts are now sold online. Government has little control on this new selling system. With MDM, the memo cited a control mechanism,” Domingo told the BusinessMirror via SMS.

Industry sources said the partial lifting of the import ban on Brazilian chicken meat products is confusing and sort of problematic since MDM are produced in some FMEs that also produce and export chicken cuts.

A highly knowledgeable industry source noted that the partial lifting could be a compromise to balance the interests of local chicken producers and meat processors, especially after the latter warned that it may cause a shortage in their raw materials—something that in turn may cause prices of canned meat products to rise. Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez aired a similar concern.

In the view of Meat Importers and Traders Association President Jesus C. Cham, the partial lifting of the ban indicated that it was just a “protectionist measure” and was not “about any health concerns for the consumers.”

In a statement, the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (Pampi) welcomed the lifting of the ban and assured the government and consumers that “prices of processed meats will remain generally stable for the rest of the year.”

However, in a separate interview with the BusinessMirror, Pampi Spokesperson Rex Agarrado said they are still waiting for Annex A of the order, which would list where the industry could import MDM from Brazilian FMEs.

“Industry MDM inventory is precariously low and Pampi member companies are now borrowing from/lending to each other.  Until Annex A is released, EU and US MDM that are 35 percent to 40 percent higher priced are the only options,” he said via SMS.

“At these levels the industry is bleeding at the rate of P7.5 million per day,” he added.

WTO rules

In a joint statement on September 4, Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food supply argued that Manila’s ban was a “clear violation” of WTO agreements as it “did not follow necessary and mandatory principles and steps” under Chapter 5 of the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.

“In this context, the Philippine government is the only one in the world currently imposing any restriction on Brazilian poultry based on the alleged risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and it has not presented any scientific evidence to justify this decision,” it said.

“Therefore, Brazil will take the appropriate measures at the World Trade Organization, if the Philippine administration fails to lift the above-mentioned ban on imports of poultry meat or does not promptly present scientific, trustworthy evidence to justify maintaining this restriction,” it added.

Nonetheless, Brazil said it acted fast by answering all the questions raised by Philippine authorities and provided detailed documentation on the regulations, guidelines and protocols being followed by Brazilian FMEs.

Brazil also emphasized that there is “no scientific evidence” supporting the allegation of risk of contamination of human beings by Covid-19 through food of any kind.

Image credits: Chernetskaya | Dreamstime.com



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