Farm lobby calls for chicken import ban after bird flu outbreaks

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A FARMING industry association, the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), said the government needs to ban chicken and other poultry imports due to outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), also known as bird flu, in Asia and Europe.

SINAG Chairman Rosendo O. So said a poultry import ban needs to be in place until the Department of Agriculture (DA) fully implements a system for first border inspection of all imported agricultural products.

“Will we wait for bird flu to enter the country and destroy the livelihood of families relying on the poultry industry? We should have learned our lessons from the African Swine Fever (ASF) and the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic,” Mr. So said in a statement Wednesday.

SINAG said bird flu outbreaks were reported in parts of Japan, Norway, and South Korea.

“South Korea reported an outbreak at a farm of around 770,000 poultry in Chungcheongbuk-do. Japan reported its first outbreak at a poultry farm in the northeast of the country. In Europe, Norway reported an H5N1 bird flu outbreak in the Rogaland region in a flock of 7,000 birds,” the group said.

SINAG said imports should not be allowed in the absence of a quarantine inspection system at the port of first entry.

“We are the only country that is not applying the global standard of quarantine inspection at the port of first entry of any imported food, food products and agricultural commodity to ensure food safety and public health security,” Mr. So said.

The DA is set to establish the first commodity examination facility for agriculture at the Subic Freeport Zone, which will subject all agricultural and food imports to 100% sampling and laboratory testing.

The DA’s original plan was to build such a facility at the Manila International Container Port, which has been delayed.

The DA recently implemented a ban on poultry imports from the Netherlands after it reported an outbreak of H5N1 HPAI. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave