Thu, 12 Feb 2004

Indonesia bans chicken imports from United States

Sari P. Setiogi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia has joined many other Asian countries to slap temporary bans on chicken imports from the United States, following the discovery of two birds with avian influenza (AI) in that country.

"We decided to suspend chicken imports (from the U.S.) on Monday, including great-grandparent chicks, grandparent chicks and chicken meat," Director of Animal Health Tri Satya Putri Naipospos H., at the Ministry of Agriculture said on Wednesday, on the sidelines of a seminar on AI.

The ban followed the discovery of two birds with AI in the U.S. northeastern state of Delaware. Other countries that have banned chicken imports from the U.S. are Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

Industrial players said the import ban would further burden the country's poultry industry, which is already heavily battered by the outbreak of AI, given the fact that the U.S. is the main supplier of great grandparent and grandparent chicken -- or high quality breeders -- to Indonesia.

Tri said following the import bans, Indonesia could switch to imports from the Netherlands, Germany and France.

Elsewhere, Tri said the government had agreed to delay the distribution of controversial China-made vaccines for a month to follow advice from experts who called for a clinical test of the vaccines before being distributed.

However, she warned of the consequence of the distribution delay.

"More of our poultry might get infected with AI as local producers are not yet able to fulfill the local needs," she said, adding the Chinese vaccines imported at the government's request will undergo clinical tests in a government laboratory in Gunung Sindur, Bogor.

The delay came after the government came under pressure from the local media, which extensively quoted experts who doubted the efficacy of the vaccines and feared that the vaccines could cause new diseases.

The government has authorized state-owned PT Bio Farma to import vaccines to cover the shortage in the country. It has also appointed Pusat Veterinaria Farma (Pusvetma) in Surabaya, PT Vaksindo Satwa Nusantara in Bogor and PT Medion in Bandung to produce the vaccine locally.

According to Tri, Bio Farma has been ordering vaccines from Intervet in the Netherlands and the first shipment was expected to arrive sometime next week.

Asked whether the Dutch-made vaccines should undergo clinical tests before being distributed to farmers, Tri said "to be fair", the vaccines were supposed to undergo a similar clinical test as well.

Separately, Bio Farma's marketing director Hasbullah told the Post the firm plans to import some 30 million doses from Intervet and might sell them for about Rp 300 (35 U.S. cents) plus value- added tax per dose.

With regards to the Chinese vaccines already imported by Bio Farma, they will be sold for Rp 230 plus VAT per dose, except for small-scale farmers who can obtain the vaccines free of charge, Hasbullah said.

According to him, the firm had imported about 3.6 million doses of vaccines from China's manufacturer Qilu Animal Health Product Factory in Qinan. Before placing order with the firm, Bio Farma and a government team inspected the firm's production facilities last month and found that the firm was able to produce efficacious vaccines.

Hidayaturrahman, a poultry farmer in Blitar, East Java, told The Jakarta Post he has been using imported Chinese vaccines since August last year.

"The (imported) vaccines saved my chickens. For me, it is just common sense. When there is an outbreak of the virus, we have to undertake the vaccinations," he said.

In Blitar, out of 14 million layer chickens, five million had died because of avian influenza from September 2003 through to the end of January this year, said Hidayaturrahman.

In comparison, the government has only admitted to 5.36 million chickens killed by AI across the country until the end of January.

Hidayaturrahman said the Chinese vaccine was sold for Rp 1,000 (11 cents) per dose in the first days of the outbreak, but the price had dropped to Rp 320 per dose.

PT Bio Farm, the sole authorized vaccine importer, sells its vaccine for Rp 230 plus VAT per dose.

According to Hidayaturrahman, vaccines locally produced by PT Medion, PT Pusvetama and PT Vaksindo are available on the market at Rp 225, Rp 165 and Rp 154 from per dose respectively.