MEAT IMPORTERS said the current ban imposed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Brazilian poultry products represents an additional burden during tough times for the industry and the economy overall.

In a mobile phone message, Meat Importers and Traders Association (MITA) President Jesus C. Cham said the ban should be lifted unless the Philippines can properly justify the ban.

Brazil is in the process of filing a challenge with the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding Philippine policy towards Brazilian imports.

Mr. Cham said the ban is worsening the impact on business which is already suffering the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The ban on Brazilian poultry is an added blow. Many are not counting on profitability these days but are just trying to stay in business,” Mr. Cham said.

On Oct. 19, the Brazilian Embassy sent a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs, complaining about the two orders issued by the DA on poultry imports.

The Brazilian Embassy said that it is “determined” to use the appropriate methods to communicate their concerns regarding the ban, such as the filing of “Specific Trade Concerns” with the WTO.

“Brazil has always conducted its sanitary and phytosanitary dialogue with our trade partners in a frank, transparent, and constructive manner, supported by scientific evidence,” the embassy said.

“The clarifications already provided to the Philippine authorities, from a technical point of view, are more than sufficient to support the immediate and complete revocation of the barrier imposed against imports of chicken meat from Brazil,” it added.

The DA issued Memorandum Order 29 on Aug. 14 imposing a temporary ban after citing a Chinese report of traces of COVID-19 in a shipment of chicken wings from Brazil.

The DA released Memorandum Order 42 on Sept. 7 which lifted the ban on Brazilian poultry in the form of mechanically deboned meat, but maintained the ban on other poultry imports.

“Based on the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted via food products,” MITA’s Mr. Cham said.

According to Mr. Cham, the Philippines imported 800,000 metric tons (MT) of meat in 2019, with 20% coming from Brazil.

Asked to comment, Bureau of Animal Industry Director Ronnie D. Domingo said that the agency will seek clarification from Brazil on information sought by the Philippines, including a list of Brazilian meat establishments affected by COVID-19.

“Every country has the freedom to ask for information that will be helpful in making evidence — based decisions,” Mr. Domingo said in a mobile phone message.

“Brazil has to provide the entire information that the Philippines requested,” he added.

Mr. Domingo said that it is up to Brazil to comply with the requirements.

“Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Supply has always been informed by the DA about our actions and requests,” Mr. Domingo said.

In the same letter, Brazil maintained that it immediately forwarded the necessary information and clarifications as requested by the Philippine government.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the DA is still arriving at a decision on lifting the ban on Brazilian poultry imports.

“We will handle this properly and we are doing everything to help our farmers,” Mr. Dar said in a mobile phone message.

In early October, the DA said chicken supply is expected to be in surplus by 464,236 MT at the end of the year, equivalent to a 103-day stock. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave