IMPORTERS are seeking a proper dialogue with the government to settle—once and for all—the issues surrounding prevailing rules on meat labeling to allay concerns regarding the country’s trade of meat products.
Meat Importers and Traders Association (Mita) said the “indefinite” extension of the moratorium on the implementation of strict minimum labeling requirements is a “welcome development.”
However, the group noted that importers remain wary since the government can revive the measure any time it wants to.
“It is a welcome development in the sense that they have allowed us to import again. For the past three weeks, a lot of foreign packers did not want to ship to the Philippines,” Mita spokesperson Paolo Pacis told the BusinessMirror.
“But as importers, we always have this threat that the rules would be revived again. The moratorium is delaying it indefinitely but there’s nothing stopping them [from doing] it again, say, in February,” he added.
Pacis noted that the moratorium “is not exactly” good for the meat imports industry since it does not provide “stability and certainty” in their business. Due to this, he pointed out that the government must now put up a consultative body to refine the prevailing sets and rules governing the country’s meat importation.
The government earlier extended indefinitely its moratorium on strict labeling requirements for imported meat products following appeals from stakeholders that the measures impair 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.
“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.
Industry players told the BusinessMirror that the NMIS, in hot water recently for its multiple issuances concerning labeling requirements, never consulted concerned stakeholders such as importers, traders and exporters.
The NMIS has repeatedly claimed that it held consultations with stakeholders before issuing its circulars that seek to supplement—to the extent of amending—prevailing labeling rules on imported meat products.
Meat importers and processors have lamented that the NMIS issuances on meat labeling requirements have put the country’s meat supply at risk, as they have caused confusion within the industry and among exporters, resulting in hesitancy to ship products to the Philippines.
“It is a major complaint of ours that NMIS acted without consultation with concerned stakeholders. So, they come out with something then we are caught off guard,” Pacis explained.
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/).
In August, at least 2.5 million kilograms of imported meat products were held in cold storages due to noncompliance with meat labeling requirements. (Read more here: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2021/08/11/meat-labeling-rules-seen-affecting-food-supply/)