Press Release
November 20, 2006

Agri Department should verify data on the
ground before a decision is made on import issue

Senate President Manny Villar, President of Nacionalista Party today asked the Department of Agriculture to take a second look at its recommendation to import three million kilos of dressed chicken from the United States amid opposition from local poultry raisers.

Agriculture officials have pushed for the importation in the aftermath of typhoon Milenyo that hit Luzon island last September. The reported damage caused on many poultry farms led to fears that local production would fall short to meet the high demand for chicken in the coming Yuletide season.

But Villar maintained that data has to be verified on the ground if possible, especially in light of assurances by local poultry growers that they can meet the demand during the holidays.

According to Villar, local chicken raisers have reported that typhoon damage to both stock and farmhouses has been minimal, and that necessary repairs have been made.

Proof of that is that chicken has not disappeared from our markets, Villar said.

He warned against any faulty forecast by DA officials for it could bode ill for the P120-billion-a-year industry.

Villar said, however, that the issue of whether or not to ship in dressed chicken in time for the holidays is a tightrope act for the government.

If supply is short and chicken prices go up, the government will be blamed for not importing chicken early as a way to stabilize prices and supply. But if imports will flood the market, our poultry farmers will complain of losses and a bleak Christmas, Villar said.

Given this, Villar said the planned importation must be a last resort, adding that safeguards must be put in place so that smugglers may not exploit the situation, and unscrupulous traders would be barred from bringing in double-dead or unsafe chicken meat.

Shipments must be monitored. We dont want this limited importation to provide a smokescreen for smugglers to flood our markets with contraband chicken. Quarantine rules must not also be relaxed because food safety is important, Villar stressed.

In 2003, chicken production reached 1.188 million metric tons with a slaughterhouse value of P74 billion.

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