By Serah Aupong – EM TV, Port Moresby
The weak protection of our borders is posing a huge threat to small holder poultry farmers in PNG.
This concern was raised recently by the Poultry Industry Association.
If imports of Australian chicken meat and eggs bring in diseases into the country, this SME stands to lose K400 million.
Since 2011 the Poultry Industry Association has raised concerns that the importing of fresh chicken meat and eggs from Australia is placing our poultry industry at very high risk.
The poultry industry is made up of two commercial heavies, Zenag and Niugini Tablebirds and over 40, 000 small holder farmers. It is the smallholder farmers, whose SME is conservatively valued at K400 million, that will be devastated should a poultry disease were to enter the country.
In 2013, the avian influenza or more commonly known as bird flu hit Australia, devastating its poultry industry. In direct response to this outbreak, 40 countries closed their borders to any poultry imports from Australia.
However, for PNG it was business as usual, as we continued our imports from Australia.
The National Aaaaagriculture Quarantine & Inspection Authority (NAQIA) whose prime responsibility is to protect PNG from foreign diseases from plant and animal products, have said in a review that they are aware of the risks this poses and will manage the diseases if it happens.
This is not going down well with poultry industry people.
Stanley Leahy, Chairman of the Poultry Industry Association says this is a complete departure from the NAQIAs functions. He says we should be establishing stringent measures that are similar to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.
Should there be a disease outbreak, there is no guarantee that PNG has the capacity to fully eradicate the industry from this outbreak and that we will fully recover from it.
What the PIA is demanding is that the PNG government and in this instance, NAQIA establish a protocol that that carefully details steps that should be taken to when importing poultry products.
They have worked with industry experts to write up a protocol which they have shared with NAQIA.
This matter has been brought to the attention of the Chief Secretary, Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc who has thrown his support behind efforts to review this matter.
Sir Zurenuoc says they are considering a three pronged approach in dealing with this. Terms of References are being drawn up to conduct a;
- Biosecurity risk assessment
- Review on the protocols that are used to import poultry products into the country.
- An economic impact assessment study
The threat of disease is not the only problem facing the industry. Smallholder farmers are losing business due to these cheap imports from Australia.
Last year it was reported that small holder farmers were downsizing productions because the birds they were raising could not compete with the cheap imports.