THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has lifted a temporary ban on poultry imports from Hungary.

In a memorandum order signed on Dec. 1, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar permitted imports of domestic and wild birds and their products including poultry meat, day-old chicks, eggs, and semen from Hungary.

Mr. Dar said the Ministry of Agriculture in Hungary reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) confirming that it is now free from the H5N8 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza or bird flu.

“Based on the evaluation of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), the risk of contamination from importing domestic and wild birds and their products including poultry meat, day-old chicks, and semen from Hungary is negligible,” Mr. Dar said.

In January, the DA imposed the temporary ban after its Ministry of Agriculture reported to the OIE the H5N8 bird flu outbreak in Komarom-Esztergom, affecting turkeys.

Rex E. Agarrado, spokesman of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc., said the DA’s decision to lift the ban on Hungarian poultry imports will not have much of an effect.

In a mobile phone message, Mr. Agarrado said Hungary exported 159 metric tons (MT) of chicken cuts to the Philippines in 2019.

“Unfortunately, Hungary is not a strategic supplier to the meat processing industry,” Mr Agarrado said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Agarrado said the country’s meat processing industry may be on “shaky ground” as meat imports may be threatened by the ongoing H5N8 outbreaks in France, the Netherlands, and Denmark.

“Based on the latest BAI imports data year to date October 2020, the dependence of the meat processing industry on Europe, including the UK and Turkey, for mechanically deboned meat (MDM) is 63.2%,” Mr. Agarrado said.

Jesus C. Cham, president of the Meat Importers and Traders Association, said the lifting of the Hungarian poultry import ban is “welcome,” but added that it would be more helpful for meat importers for the DA to lift its ban on poultry imports from Brazil.

“Hungary is a new supplier so the trade relationships still need to be developed and established. It is preferable that DA reopen Brazil now since the supply chain is already well developed,” Mr. Cham said in a mobile phone message.

As of October, the BAI estimates that Brazilian meat imports account for 16.1% or 121,952 MT of all meat imports.

On Sept. 7, the DA allowed the entry of Brazilian MDM but maintained its ban on other poultry products despite lobbying by the meat industry for the lifting of the suspension.

The DA banned Brazilian poultry after a Chinese report found traces of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in a shipment of chicken wings. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave