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Jamaica bans poultry imports from parts of US, Canada

Published:Wednesday | March 18, 2015 | 4:56 PMTameka Gordon
Dr Keith Amiel, corporate affairs manager, Caribbean Broilers Group.
Ian Parsard, senior vice president, Jamaica Broilers Group. (at right)

The Veterinary Services Division of the Ministry of Agriculture has issued a ban on all poultry and poultry products emanating from parts of the United States as well as other regions, arising from an outbreak of avian influenza or bird flu in that country.

Poultry producers are warning consumers to brace for a shortage of chicken and other poultry meat.

The ministry further plans to incinerate containers of poultry and poultry products emanating from those markets on arrival at the ports to protect the local industry, the Financial Gleaner has learned.

The ban, imposed a week ago on March 12, affects imports from Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Minnesota, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington in the United States. It also restricts supplies from British Columbia in Canada, according to a notice issued to poultry producers by Veterinary Services.

While the Veterinary Services notice did not name other areas of Canada, one local manufacturer and wholesaler, Pioneer Meat Products Limited, said its imports from Quebec has been restricted.

The company has a 40-foot container of poultry products still in the hands of its supplier, General Manager Pauline Wilson told the Financial Gleaner, because it has been unable to get the necessary approval from Veterinary Services to commence shipment.

"We are running out of raw material to service my contracts...," Wilson said Thursday.

The value of poultry imports between January and November 2014 was estimated at US$30.6 million by Statin.

The Veterinary Services ban covers all poultry products whether raw, chilled, fresh or frozen; by-products that are not fully cooked; hatching eggs; and raw pet foods containing poultry; live birds; egg yolks and egg whites; feathers and offal, or entrails and internal organs, of animals used as food.

Corporate affairs manager at Caribbean Broilers Group, Dr Keith Amiel, told the Financial Gleaner on Wednesday that the spread of bird flu is now a serious concern for regional poultry producers, who are still calculating their response to the outbreak, including how to prevent contagion while protect their businesses.

"The Caribbean Poultry Association is asking for an emergency meeting of all poultry producers to consider the crisis in the Caribbean," Amiel said, while noting that the Trinidad-based secretariat will convene the meeting.

Locally, he said, the Ministry of Agriculture has kept the sector abreast of developments.

"All of last week, all imports of chicken meat was banned. By this afternoon (Wednesday), all turkey neck and back on the wharf will be incinerated or dumped," Amiel said.

"Because of the outbreak of the influenza, they are going to break down every container, and any box that has Arkansas on it will be taken and incinerated."

Imports of turkey neck and back, and chicken neck and back will be impacted as well as the supply of fertile eggs. Amiel said CB Group, Jamaica's second-largest poultry operation, has sought alternative markets for fertile eggs even as it assesses the likely impact on revenues.

"The country could be facing a massive shortage of chicken meat," he added.

The largest poultry producer, Jamaica Broilers Group, was more optimistic, saying the impact of the ban "will be insignificant" to the company due to the localisation of its production base.

"We have a significant breeder flock operation here in Jamaica that produces the fertile hatching eggs that goes into our hatchery that then feeds into the small farmer network or our own contract growers," said senior vice-president of operations and finance, Ian Parsard.

Jamaica Broilers also owns assets in the United States, but Parsard said those operations are outside the restricted zone.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Donovan Stanberry, said the ministry continues to assess developments and will take definitive actions as events warrant.

"The situation is very dynamic so we have to keep reviewing the situation as it unfolds," Stanberry said.

He would neither confirm nor deny that poultry now on the wharves will be dumped.

While avian influenza viruses are common in wild migratory waterfowls and does not usually harm them, the Veterinary Services Division said the current concern is that the H5N2 strain, currently causing the outbreaks, may be deadly for commercial poultry.

However, there is no immediate food-safety risk and the consumption of properly cooked poultry meat and poultry products remains safe, the division said.


CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct a comment wrongly attributed to Ian Parsard.