September 25, 2003
Philippines Still Needs Indian Beef Imports
The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc., PAMPI, is insisting that the country continue with imports of carabao from its main sources, like India, after questions were raised on the safety of Indian beef.
Things had heated up between local pig farmers and PAMPI when the latter was accused of smuggling "hot meat" into the Philippines late last year. PAMPI executive director, Francisco Buencamino, retorted by saying that the association will not risk tarnishing its reputation for a few shipments of meat. PAMPI members, he insisted, are similarly required to stand in line for import permits granted by the Bureau of Animal Industry.
Currently in debate is a bill draft which might limit the import of meat from countries deemed not free of foot and mouth disease, or non-FMD free. Opposing this ruling, PAMPI argues that as this would close Filipino borders to beef from non-FMD free India, meat processors would have to source for ruminants from more expensive countries like Australia, which would provoke a 30-45 percent price hike.
PAMPI adds, domestic supply of carabao meat is inadequate. Also, the global animal trade regulator, Paris-based Office International des Epizooties has laid down guidelines for meat trading with FMD-risk countries, granted that vaccination rules are adhered to.
Moreover, certain restrictions make imports from FMD-free countries difficult - the US has manufacturing grade meat good only for its own requirements, Canada currently has a mad cow episode, New Zealand does not have manufacturing grade meat needed by local processors and Australia is the only country that has the volume needed by local processors, but at high prices.
Pure cattle breeds from India and other sources are just beginning to find a footing in the Filipino market. Thus, the best solution, PAMPI says, would be to obtain manufacturing grade carabao beef from India, which has had no reported cases of FMD since 1998.
The Philippines is targeting an FMD-free status by May 2004.