MANILA,  December 30, 2003  (STAR) By Rocel C. Felix - The discovery of mad cow disease in the United States will have little effect on the local meat processing industry, Francisco Buencamino, executive director of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors (PAMPI) said yesterday.

Buencamino pointed out that unlike major buyers of US beef such as Japan, the Philippines imports an insignificant volume of its beef requirements from the United States.

"The country imports only eight percent of its beef requirements from the US or about 40,000 metric tons yearly. Of that volume, meat processors account for only 4,000 metric tons (MT)," noted Buencamino.

Moreover, the purchase of meat processors is limited to choice cuts. The same is true with food retailers, hotels and restaurants which get their supply mostly from Australia.

According to Buencamino, PAMPI members like San Miguel Foods and Swift Foods Inc. rely primarily on carabeef from India for their processing requirements.

"The situation in the US is not going to have a major effect on the meat processors," said Buencamino.

There are talks the mad cow disease in the US will affect key importing countries and subsequently, send prices soaring, making imported beef very expensive.

Aside from Japan, Mexico, Korea and Hong Kong have also imposed a ban on US beef which could lead to potential losses of more than $854million a year for the US beef industry.

Last week’s discovery of the first US case of mad cow disease in a 6-1/2-year old Holstein dairy cow has halted most US exports of beef, sent food company stocks tumbling and shaken consumer confidence.

As a precautionary measure, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has stopped issuing veterinary quarantine certificates (VQCs) since Dec. 23 that would allow imported beef to enter the country.

VQCs serve as import permits that are required by the DA before imported agricultural products are allowed into the country.

Concerns that contaminated beef could enter the country intensified after the US found a cow in Sunnyside Washington, infected with the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) which is more commonly known as mad cow disease.

Humans who eat the brain or spinal matter from an infected cow can develop a variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, considered a deadly disease that has claimed the lives of more than 143 people in the United Kingdom after an outbreak in the 1980s.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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