Basil: Importing poultry products threatens 3,000 jobs

National, Normal

The National – Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DEPUTY Opposition leader and Bulolo MP Sam Basil has voiced concern that some 3,000 jobs and cash income for extension farmers are under threat from a questionable decision to import poultry products.
He said countries from which the poultry products originated had strong quarantine measures that would disallow the kind of products they allowed into Papua New Guinea.
“As we are all aware, many of our industries’ hopes have been hyped up by the ExxonMobil-led LNG project and are hopeful for an increase in sales of their products,” Basil said.
In his questions to the minister for trade and industry, he asked the ministers for agriculture and livestock, foreign affairs and immigration and state enterprises to take note.
“Is the minister aware that there has been a lifting of restrictions on the import of chicken products into the country?” he said.
“And, as a result, a flood of chicken products have caused Zenag Chicken to cut back production by 30%. Even Niugini Tablebirds is worried too. The 30% drop is due to drop in demand by supermarkets in PNG that are now giving preference to cheaper, imported cuts of chicken from Australia and New Zealand like the Rancher and Tegels brands.”
Basil said Zenag Chicken employed 900 people nationwide with Niugini Birds employing twice that number.
“These companies are committed to our people and pay all their tax dues to the state.
“They create a lot of spin-off benefits for our people, including extensions farmers – those who raise poultry on their own land with extension services and purchasing done by the companies,” he said.
“Is the minister aware that if these companies are not protected, and they go broke, because of cheaper poultry products from overseas, PNG will lose out on close to 3,000 jobs and many extension farms owned by ordinary people will lose out as well?”
Basil asked if the minister knew that both Australia and New Zealand had strong but subtle “protectionist” policies against poultry pro­ducts coming into their countries.
He highlighted that both Australia and New Zealand had a “cooked-only” import policy on poultry products.
“Basically, this means, for poultry products to be acceptable:
* All chicken imported has to be cooked at 180 degrees centigrade for 60 minutes;
* Only whole birds –  no portions – to ensure no diseased portions are just cut off;
* Eggs have to be boiled for five minutes; and,
* Any breeding stocks had to have come out of farms approved by their national quarantine authorities.
Referring to a past incident of the Newcastles disease, which affected poultry in East New Britain, Basil said: “With the stringent policies they have, can the minister explain why the government has allowed this ‘dumping’ of poultry products in our country?”
He urged the minister to impose protectionism measures.