Pork Export Accreditation Plans Put on Hold

THE PHILIPPINES - The government has temporarily set aside its plans to tap Asian markets for its pork exports, pending findings of tests by an international team now in the country to study the Ebola Reston virus in local hogs, the head of the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) said in a phone interview late last week.
calendar icon 12 January 2009
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The Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), the Livestock Development Council, and the NMIS — all attached agencies of the Agriculture department — have put on hold plans to apply for pork export accreditation from South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan, NMIS Executive Director Jane C. Bacayo said. "We have to prioritize because we are not yet sure on the effects of Ebola [Reston on hogs and humans]" Mr Bacayo said in Filipino.

The agencies had earlier planned to submit documents on local sanitary and biosecurity programs to South Korea in the last part of 2008, as well as to Japan and Hong Kong early this year, according to BusinessWorld.

"With this Ebola scare, no one from abroad will buy from us until we get a final statement of the international organizations," Albert R.T. Lim, Jr., president of the National Federation of Hog Farmers, Inc., said in a separate phone interview.

The Ebola-Reston virus, a subtype of Ebola, was discovered in the Philippines in 1989 among crab-eating macaques exported to the Hazleton Laboratories in Reston, Virginia. Late in October last year, the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory of the US Department of Agriculture reported to the Agriculture department that six out of 28 pig tissue samples taken from four hog farms in May, June and September were positive for the virus.

While Ebola Reston is believed to be harmless to humans, the outbreaks last year were the first recorded cases of the virus jumping species, hence, the concern.

"We continue to communicate with foreign governments to learn more about their safety protocols, but we cannot focus on [meeting the protocols] right now," Mr Bacayo said.

"[Getting export accreditation] will depend on the outcome of the studies and recommendations of the international experts," he added.

Mr Lim agreed, saying that plans will now depend "if we can get a clean bill of health from those agencies."

A 22-man team of public and animal health experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and Agriculture department are testing tissue samples from hog farms in the towns of Pandi in Bulacan and Manaoag in Pangasinan — the suspected source of the virus. The 10-day mission will end early next week.

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