MANILA,  February 11, 2004 (STAR) By Rocel C. Felix - Local broiler producers are up and about as other Asian countries look to the Philippines to supply their chicken requirements after the bird flu outbreak resulted in a shortage of the product.

Rita Imelda Palabyab, president of the Philippine Association of Broiler Integrators (PABI) said 10 more foreign companies are looking at getting their chicken requirements from the Philippines which remains free of the deadly bird flu virus.

"These companies are mostly Japanese and Korean trading houses. We’ve also been getting inquiries from Vietnam. Our individual members are in various stages of commercial negotiations with the buyers," said Palabyab. She declined to identify these potential buyers.

PABI’s members include some of the country’s biggest broiler producers such as San Miguel Foods Inc. (SMFI), Swift Foods Inc., Tyson Agro-Ventures, Universal Robina Corp. and Vitarich Corp.

Palabyab said exports will consist mostly of boneless thigh and drumstick which the Japanese importers have specified, including specific cuts for ready-to-cook items such as yakitori chicken, teriyaki and breaded chicken fillet.

Of the PABI members, the first ones close to striking deals are SMFI, Swift Foods and Tyson Agro-Ventures which have the capacity and the facilities to meet buyers’ requirements.

Ten countries in Asia have been confirmed to have the bird flu virus: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Laos, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Pakistan. Malaysia’s poultry flock reportedly already to hit by the virus.

In Southeast Asia, only the Philippines and Singapore have remained free of the bird flu epidemic. Only the Philippines, however, has the volume to supply both the domestic and export market.

The country producers about 594,000 MT of poultry meat annually. Exports last year reached to only about 100 MT.

Earlier, Japanese conglomerate Marubeni Corp. said it will buy at least 30,000 metric tons (MT) of chicken from the Philippines.

Japanese health and quarantine inspectors will be flying to Manila this week to look at the processing facilities and procedures of some of the country’s biggest broiler integrators.

For its part, Philippine health and quarantine authorities are ensuring that exporters meet the stringent requirements of Japan.

"The broiler producers want to take advantage of this oportunity to export. This will hopefully make up for the slack in local demand due to unfounded fears of avian flu in the country. More importantly, it also sends the signal that chicken from the Philippines is avian flu-free," said Ruben Pascual, spokesperson of PABI.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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