THE government has extended indefinitely its moratorium on strict labeling requirements for imported meat products following appeals from stakeholders that the measures are detrimental to the country’s food security as they hamper the movement of goods.
The Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) issued Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) 03 on November 4, extending the moratorium for the strict implementation of the minimum labeling requirements for imported meat.
Both BAI and NMIS are attached agencies of the Department of Agriculture (DA), which oversees the country’s meat value chain.
“In consideration [of] the appeal of stakeholders, along with the global impacts of Covid-19 on food security, an extension of the moratorium for strict implementation of the minimum labeling requirements is hereby extended indefinitely until existing guidelines are reviewed and amended,” the document read.
This is now the third extension made by the government of the moratorium, with the previous one scheduled to expire on December 31. The previous extension was granted following appeals from meat importers and the Embassy of the United States, based on BAI-NMIS JMC 02 issued on August 20.
The first moratorium was made on August 10 through BAI-NMIS JMC 01, and lasted until September 30.
The moratorium is for the supposed implementation of NMIS MC 07-2021-018, which reiterated the strict implementation of minimum labeling requirements for imported meat. With the moratorium, the government will not seize, confiscate and dispose any meat shipments that do not comply with the labeling requirements.
The BAI-NMIS JMC 03 noted that all meat import arrivals shall be guided by NMIS MC 08-2021-024, which bears rules on the rectification of noncompliant meat labels upon arrival of shipments.
“This flexibility, however, is already noted in Section XI.B of Administrative Order No. 26 ,” the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service in Manila said of the moratorium extension.
The BusinessMirror first broke the story in August that the sudden implementation of NMIS MC 07-2021-018 led to the seizure of meat shipments, catching importers off-guard. In fact, less than a week after its implementation, at least 2.5 million of imported meat products were held in cold storage facilities pending resolution of the labeling issue.
Meat importers and processors have lamented that the issuances made by the NMIS on meat labeling requirements have put the country’s meat supply at risk since they have caused confusion within the industry and among exporters, resulting in hesitancy to ship products to the Philippines.
Just last week, the government rescinded its supplemental guidelines on labeling of imported meat products following concern raised by certain industry groups that the new rules may cause shortages in the days leading up to the holidays because exporters were reportedly reluctant to ship to the Philippines on account of these. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2021/11/01/govt-recalls-new-imported-meat-label-rules-amid-furor/).
Industry players pointed out that the issuances made by the NMIS were done without proper and extensive consultation with stakeholders, both local importers and representatives of the country’s trade-partners.