By: Paul Oeka January 30, 2023

Photo credit: Jennifer Nichols 

Papua New Guinea has ceased issuing import permits for Australian and Asian raw poultry in a trade move some viewed as political maneuvering.

A blanket ban was imposed on the importation of frozen chickens into the country to protect the billion-kina local poultry industry.

PNG's Agriculture Minister Aiye Tambua announced that the ban will take effect at the end of January. He said that protecting the poultry industry from imported diseases is the main reason for the decision.

While authorities have made no official announcement, multiple industry sources said PNG customers had been told permits would not be issued for Asian and Australian chicken from January 6. It will not affect orders placed before the ban date, the government said.

A letter from PNG’s National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority (NAQIA) obtained by the media mainly stated that importers should “refrain from importation” of chicken products.

“The general public including importers and exporters are thereby informed that effective of 6 January 2023, NAQIA will cease issuance of import permit [sic] to import fresh, frozen and chilled chicken products,” the letter stated.

On the downside, PNG imports nearly K200 million worth of frozen chickens annually. To meet the demand for this favorite protein, the Agriculture Minister has admitted that the importation ban will make consumers pay more at the counter, but he’s confident the two major producers of frozen chickens in the country will fill the demand gap.

He also stated that protecting the billion-kina local poultry industry is important.

Minister Tambua says Niugini Tablebirds and Zenag had given guarantees to increase production, which will create more than 2,000 job opportunities for Papua New Guineans.

He further said that the ban will influence thousands of Papua New Guineans to venture into this poultry business to meet the demand, creating more income in the small to medium business space.

In relation, a lot of confusion has raised from the imposed ban as some importers have pointed out that the unofficial trade ban came after a push by The Poultry Industry Association (PIA) of PNG before Christmas, which claimed that uncooked chicken from Australia and Asia contained “exotic poultry diseases” and was “illegal”.

The said claims were made in a full-page advert in one of the country’s major daily newspapers, The National.

The letter by NAQIA to importers also repeated the accusations, saying: “The Poultry Industry Association (PIA) has raised concerns to the government through the Minister of Agriculture on biosecurity risks.”

Meanwhile, in a historic address to PNG’s parliament recently, Australian Prime Minister Mr. Anthony Albanese said he wanted the two nations to work closely to unlock prosperity.

He also mentioned the Australian Government’s intent to improve and to assist with PNG’s biosecurity measures.

“Our government also stands ready to assist PNG to improve your biosecurity regime to enable your farmers and producers to access international markets,” Albanese said.

Australia is PNG’s biggest trade partner with bilateral trade of over $6 billion in 2020, according to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The value of chicken exports to PNG was about $23 million in 2021.

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