POULTRY IMPORTS from the UK have been banned after that country reported outbreaks of H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza (bird flu).

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar signed a memorandum order on March 5 that banned the entry of UK domestic and wild birds and their products including poultry meat, day-old chicks, eggs, and semen.

The order also includes the suspension of the processing, evaluation, and issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances for such commodities.

The Department of Agriculture issued a similar order on Dec. 14 that banned poultry imports from England, one of the component countries of the UK.

Mr. Dar said the ban has been expanded to the UK after outbreaks were reported in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

“Given that the highly pathogenic avian influenza has already spread in all the four countries of the United Kingdom in a span of three months, it is recommended that a countrywide ban be imposed,” Mr. Dar said.

“[The] highly pathogenic avian influenza in the UK has killed 203,128 birds,” he added.

Mr. Dar confirmed that all poultry shipments in transit, loaded, or accepted at ports before the official communication of the memorandum order to British officials will still be allowed as long as they were not sourced from England; the Orkney Islands in Scotland; Lisburn and Clough in Northern Ireland; and Anglesey in Wales.  

“All other shipments accepted at the port of origin the day after the date of official communication to the British authorities are therefore advised not to sail,” Mr. Dar said.

Jesus C. Cham, president of the Meat Importers and Traders Association, said the ban on UK poultry imports will affect the domestic meat processing industry as well as consumers.

“It is unfortunate that the supply situation is getting tighter. This will translate into higher raw material costs for processors and subsequently for consumers. We need to find a solution quickly,” Mr. Cham said.

Processors “cannot raise their prices so they have to absorb (the impact) as best they can,” he added.

According to the Bureau of Animal Industry, chicken imports from the UK as of Jan. 31 amounted to 1.66 million kilograms, or 9.8% of the total. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave