MANILA – The Department of Agriculture has lifted the ban on meat importation from Brazil, following tests confirming the absence of salmonella from their products, which account for a fifth of the Philippines’ supply – both for beef and mechanically deboned meat.
According to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, the Department of Agriculture’s inspection mission showed Brazil has complied with animal health and food safety requirements of the Philippines.
“Ang amin lang [From our end, it’s], procedural. I suspended the importation based on issue of salmonella and since it was found out that [Brazil had addressed] the salmonella issue, I have to lift the suspension,” Piñol said in a phone interview.
The DA four months ago banned importation of beef and mechanically deboned meat from Brazil following reports of a salmonella outbreak.
Beef from Brazil is used for hamburgers and ground meat while the mechanically deboned meat is used for siomai, sausages, hotdogs, siopao and some processed foods.
According to the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), 20% of beef and 20% of mechanically deboned meat in the Philippines comes from Brazil.
The ban therefore cut deeply into the supply of the Meat Importers and Traders Association (MITA), which said the lifting will not allow them to catch up with the expected spike in demand for Christmas. Thus, the group said, the public cannot expect the usual discounts from meat products that are usually offered during the Christmas season.
“Medyo late na lang; kasi ang buong proseso mula pagtanggap ng application up to approval ng application aabutin ng two weeks, so December na magiging approval [It’s quite late now. The entire process from filing of application to import up to approval takes two weeks],” Jess Cham, president of MITA.
He said importers are allowed to ship after December 15 as a result of the ban’s lifting, but if the exporters are also busy with their own Christmas season in their countries, work on the shipment will be slow. He estimates that realistically, processing of shipments will start in January, “and it will arrive in March. Late na late [very late].”
With this scenario, even if restaurants want to offer promos, it will be hard for them, industry officials said.
“Maraming mga kliyente ng importers, dahil short supply, ‘di makapag-promo sa Christmas time. Magpo-promo dapat sila; meron pang customers na gusto mag-promo ng beef items kaso walang suplay [Many clients of importers cannot offer promois for Christmas because of the short supply]. Consumers have lost an opportunity,” said MITA’s Cham.
Meanwhile, the NMIS said tight screening of meat entering the country continues.
According to Simeon Amurao, assistant director of the Bureau of Animal Industry, “the NMIS continues to examine or conduct laboratory testing for all meats coming here. They are tested for salmonella; so kapag nag-positive ulit, another banning naman ‘yan [if they test positive again, that means another ban].”
Amurao expressed hope that with the visit of the DA mission team in Brazil, exporters from Brazil will realize [we won’t accept products tainted with] salmonella.”
Piñol said he had told the Brazilians that the “lifting doesn’t mean to say there would be massive importation right away. At the end of the day, it will be the private sector who will determine whether it’s profitable for them to import meat from Brazil.”