Canberra urges Papua New Guinea to lift ban on Australian poultry

By Poorna Rodrigo

- Last updated on GMT

More than a third of Australia’s chicken meat is exported to PNG
More than a third of Australia’s chicken meat is exported to PNG

Related tags Meat Australia Poultry

Australia’s poultry industry has told Papua New Guinea (PNG) that a ban on Australian raw poultry imports, citing campylobacter contamination, cannot be justified.

This is especially so, argues Australian Chicken Meat Federation executive director Andreas Dubs, given the "bacteria is found on chicken meat in all countries"​ and most likely in PNG’s own local produce.

More than a third of Australia’s chicken meat is exported to PNG, valued at over AU$20 million (US$15.8m) per year, according to Dubs.

"Campylobacter on chicken meat is common and found in all countries to various degrees,"​ Dubs told GlobalMeatNews​. We have "scientific data"​ to prove it. And he argued that Australia’s level of contamination is similar to other countries where data is available and who have not suffered export bans over campylobacter.

The PNG government banned all raw Australian poultry exports on 17 April, citing campylobacter concerns. The PNG Poultry Industry Association backed the decision, saying they deserve the same biosecurity policies as Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, which only allow cooked poultry products to be imported from any source. Australia theoretically allows raw poultry imports, but the quarantine and health checks required are so onerous, sales are effectively blocked.

Australia’s Department of Agriculture has "requested that the PNG authorities reconsider the need for an import suspension on uncooked poultry meat products and uncooked egg products from Australia",​ a spokesperson from the department said. It has provided the PNG authorities with information to "address any concerns about the safety and wholesomeness of poultry meat and egg products exported from Australia to PNG, particularly in regards to the bacteria campylobacter".​ Australia is now awaiting PNG’s decision, the spokesperson said.

UK Nuffield scholar Werner Strydom, general manager for broilers (central & southern regions) at Hook2Sisters, who has investigated ways to reduce campylobacter in the UK food chain, said Australia could do better in its reduction of campylobacter, adding: "Australia has a duty to export a safe product."

Also, PNG consumers can be poorly educated about health risks, said Werner: "Meat and fruit is commonly bought on markets or on the roadside and any meat contaminated with campylobacter will pose a big risk to poorly educated consumers. PNG authorities must have got their share of concerns."

Papua New Guinea was an Australian dependent territory until 1975, when it achieved independence. Werner noted that PNG poultry producers import the bulk of their commercial feed from Australia.

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