The Philippines today lifted the import ban on Brazil poultry after the country’s largest exporter of the mechanically deboned chicken meat (MDM) complained of “unfair violations” before the World Trade Organization (WTO).
On Monday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar issued Memorandum Order No 42 lifting the temporary ban on MDM of poultry coming from Brazil.
The partial lifting also doesn’t necessarily go against the plea of local feed millers and poultry raisers to keep the import ban for the sake of local poultry production because the Philippines doesn’t produce MDM amid lack of facilities.
Days before the lifting the ban, the Brazilian government has called out the Philippine government for alleged trade violations for imposing an import ban on poultry meat coming from the Latin American country and challenged it to “promptly present scientific, trustworthy evidence” for such restriction.
“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 steps foreseen on Article 5 of the World Trade Organization [WTO] Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), and, therefore, is in clear violation of Article 5 of the WTO SPS agreement,” said Brazil’s Ministry of External Relations (MER) and Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (MAPA) in a joint statement.
Under WTO rule, in the assessment of risks, country members shall take into account available scientific evidence; relevant processes and production methods; relevant inspection, sampling and testing methods; prevalence of specific diseases or pests; existence of pest- or disease-free areas; relevant ecological and environmental conditions; and quarantine or other treatment.
It also said that members should, when determining the appropriate level of SPS protection, take into account the objective of minimizing negative trade effects.
Brazil’s complaint was filed after DA issued Memorandum Order No. 39 three weeks ago imposing a temporary ban on the importation of poultry meat originating from Brazil, following reports that SARS-COV 2—the causative agent of Covid-19—was detected in a surface sampling conducted in chicken meat imported from Brazil to China.
DA, upon issuing the ban, cited the same WTO rule which specified that “in cases where relevant scientific evidence is insufficient, a member may provisionally adopt sanitary or phytosanitary measures on the basis of available pertinent information”.
In this case, the DA is referring to news reports saying that hundreds of workers in Brazilian meat manufacturing facilities are now getting infected by COVID-19, as well as to the news that the virus was detected in a surface sampling conducted in chicken meat imported from Brazil to China.
For its part, the Brazilian government said there is no scientific evidence supporting the allegation of risk of contamination of human beings by COVID-19 through food of any kind.
“The government of the Philippines has not provided evidence to justify its decision to impose restrictions on the imports of poultry meat; and that the mandatory steps foreseen on Article 5 of the SPS Agreement were disregarded in the case,” the aforementioned Brazilian government agencies said.
“Therefore, Brazil will take the appropriate measures at the World Trade Organization, if the Philippine administration fails to lift the above-mentioned ban on imports of poultry meat or does not promptly present scientific, trustworthy evidence to justify maintaining this restriction,” it added.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Codex Alimentarius, food and food packaging are not transmission vehicles for COVID-19.
There is, indeed, a consensus in the international scientific community, shared by risk assessment agencies and sanitary authorities around the world, that the SARS-CoV-2 virus cannot be transmitted through food trade
The Philippines is currently one of the biggest markets for Brazilian pork and poultry products.
Earlier, Bureau of Animal Director (BAI) Director Ronnie Domingo maintained that the DA will only lift the aforementioned import ban if Brazilian government will already submit the documents the Philippine government is asking from them to ensure that the products the country is exporting to the Philippines are safe from COVID-19 virus.
MAPA, on the other hand, said that Brazilian authorities “acted fast” regarding this issue and already answered “all the questions raised by Philippine authorities and providing detailed documentation, including regulations, guidelines and protocols followed by Brazilian companies in the food sector.”