Trade war to compromise PH food security, says PAMPI

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The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) asked the government to avoid trade dispute with countries that provide raw materials for the food industry.
PAMPI said this is because the Philippines imports most of the raw materials needed to produce affordable canned meat products which provided a lifeline to the population at the height of the community quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“About 90 percent to 95 percent of raw materials of meat processing industry are imported. Not because we want to, but because we have to,” PAMPI said in a statement.
The association noted that the Philippines imports more than 800,000 metric tons of meat every year, of which 50 percent to 60 percent is used by meat processors to produce canned meat products, hotdogs and frozen meat items.

“The meat processing industry will continue to grow and support its commitment to supply the food needs of the country. Working with stakeholders and government regulators, we shall resolve and mitigate difficult issues together,” PAMPI said.

A trade dispute between the Philippines and Brazil broke out last month, threatening the supply of raw materials for the local meat processing industry.

The trade row started when the Department of Agriculture imposed a ban on chicken meats coming from Brazil, citing health and phytosanitary issue as reasons.

On September 5, 2020 Brazil, through a joint statement from its Ministry of External Relations Affairs and Ministry of Agriculture, warned the Philippines that the DA action was against the tenets of the World Trade Organization (WTO) policy.

“All recommendations issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Codex Alimentarius indicate that food and food packaging are not transmission vehicles for COVID-19,” the joint statement said.

“The Philippine government’s current imposition of a temporary ban over imports of Brazilian poultry meat did not follow the necessary and mandatory principles and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), and, therefore, is in clear violation of Article 5 of the WTO SPS Agreement,” said the statement.

In a September 11, 2020 letter to PAMPI, the Food and Drug Administration reiterated that there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 virus from food or food ingredients.

The WHO further stated that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be killed at temperature similar to that of other known viruses and bacteria found in food, hence a thorough cooking of food is needed prior consumption,” said FDA Director General Enrique Domingo in his letter.

“Generally, coronavirus need live human or animal host to multiply and survive. The poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces of materials will likely have a very low risk of spread from food packaging or even food products,” FDA said. 

Industry sources said Brazil practically hostaged the MDM (mechanically debone meat) shipments to Manila as a retaliation to what the DA did – banning Brazilian chicken entry into the Philippines.

The DA subsequently lifted the ban on MDM  on September 07, 2020 by issuing Memorandum Order No. 42.

PAMPI said the MDM from Brazil is a source of affordable and dependable raw materials for processed meats.

“Without MDM from Brazil our cost of raw materials would spike by 20 percent and we cannot pass on the rising cost to our consumers because of Repubic Act 7581 or the Price Act signed by President Duterte recently,” PAMPI said.

“We appeal to the government for an intervention so that we will be able to deliver our commitment to serve our people through a sustainable food security system,” PAMPI said.

The P310 billion meat processing industry provides direct employment to some 150,000 people. In 2019, the industry produced some 900 million kilograms of processed meats.

PAMPI members produced about 260 million canned goods during the March-May lockdown period that were given to quarantined population by national relief agencies, local government units and volunteer groups.

Some 4 million kilograms of frozen meat items were also produced and distributed to the people.  

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