THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it lifted a ban on poultry meat and products from Belgium, after that country was declared free from H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

Senior Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban lifted the ban via a memorandum order dated June 23. The order covers shipments of domestic and wild birds and their products, including poultry meat, day-old chicks, eggs and semen.

“Based on the evaluation of the Department of Agriculture, the risk of contamination from importing live poultry, poultry meat, day-old chicks, eggs and semen is negligible,” according to the order.

The DA basis for lifting bans relies on official self-declaration reports sent to the World Organization for Animal Health and supporting documents submitted by Belgium’s Federal Agency for Safety of the Food Chain.

The ban was imposed on Feb. 8 after the Belgian national laboratory confirmed an HPAI outbreak in Wervik, in the province of West Flanders.

All of the 14 outbreaks have been reported to have ended, according to the order.

“All import transactions of the above commodities shall be in accordance with existing rules and regulations of the Department of Agriculture,” according to the order.

Jerome D. Ong, vice-president of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. said the order allows the entry of “more safe raw materials” which will “help us ensure uninterrupted supply and stable prices of processed meats.”

Jesus C. Cham, president emeritus of the Meat Importers and Traders Association, said any expansion of the list of approved source countries will help improve supply.

“We continue to exhort the government to adopt the regionalization principles of the World Organization for Animal Health and approve more origins,” he said via chat, referring to the practice of more targeted bans by region, rather than bans covering entire countries in the event of an outbreak.

“The DA should refrain from banning entire countries, but only affected zones. This will be less disruptive and help our food security,” he added.

Earlier this month, the DA lifted the bans on poultry imports from the Netherlands and the US state of Minnesota. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera