The Philippine government was told to temporarily suspend the importation of chicken and other poultry products amid several outbreaks of severe bird flu in Asia and Europe.

Rosendo So, chairman of Samahang Industriya sa Agrikultura (SINAG), said in a statement Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, that the country must temporarily close its doors to chicken and poultry imports until the Department of Agriculture (DA) can fully implement the legally mandated first border inspection on all imported agriculture and food products.

“We should have learned our lessons after the ASF [African Swine Fever] and COVID-19 pandemic. We have already seen the importance of strict quarantine protocols on the products and people entering the country,” So said.

“The [bird flu] outbreak is now closer to us than it was a few days before,” he added, pointing out the damaging effect it could have on the already struggling local poultry industry. Just recently, 21 human infections in China with the H5N6 subtype of avian influenza has been reported.

This, while South Korea also reported a bird flu outbreak at a farm in Chungcheongbuk-do. To contain its spread, as many as 770,000 birds being raised in the said farm were slaughtered.

Japan, too, reported its first outbreak at a poultry farm in the northeast of the country, while Norway reported an H5N1 bird flu outbreak in the Rogaland region in a flock of 7,000 birds.

So wondered where the DA’s budget for the establishment of first border inspection facilities went. So far, no single inspection facility was established since the DA announced the plan.

On September 28, 2021, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that DA encountered problems with Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) regarding the construction of the P500-million Agricultural Commodity Examination Area (ACEA), which will now be referred to as Commodity Examination Facility for Agriculture (CEFA).

This is more than two years since Dar first revealed the government’s plan to build ACEA or CEFA, which will serve as a first border inspection facility and should prevent the entry of smuggled agricultural products in the country or those contaminated with animal and plant diseases.

The construction of this facility will serve as DA’s compliance with the ‘Quarantine First Policy’ of the Republic Act (RA) 10611 or the Food Safety Act of 2013. Under this law, all imported foods shall undergo cargo inspection and clearance procedures by the DA and the Department of Health (DOH) at the first port of entry to determine compliance with national regulations.

“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, amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic,” So said.

It was only earlier this year when the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) declared the Philippines free from avian influenza or bird flu. The declaration came less than a year since the fatal animal disease crept back into the poultry farms of the country.

Meanwhile, Vitarich Corporation, a major commercial chicken producer, assured that the country has enough supply of safe, locally produced chicken. In a briefing on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, Nikki Garcia, executive vice president of Vitarich Corporation, encouraged consumers to buy locally produced chicken instead of imported ones.

United Broilers Raisers Association (UBRA) Chairman Gregorio San Diego Jr. told Business Bulletin previously that the supply of local chicken is not actually a problem for the industry. The bigger problem, he said, is the low demand worsened by the continuous entry of imported supply.

“This is a big problem for us. The demand is still low. People don’t have enough money and food has given way to some more important home expenditures like water, electricity, phone bills, and internet,” San Diego said.

Aside from low demand, San Diego said local raisers are still competing with a lot of imported supply, which is making it extra hard for them to deal with rising production costs.

Source: Manila Bulletin (