Cablegate: Egypt: Minister of Agriculture Discusses

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O.12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Egypt: Minister of Agriculture Discusses
Poultry - Ban and Efforts to Combat Avian Influenza

1. Summary: Ambassador Ricciardone met with Egyptian
Minister of Agriculture, Ahmed El Leithy, to discuss the
Egyptian ban on imports of poultry products from all
sources, and to discuss the upcoming USDA mission to assess
status of implementation of the Bio-safety Protocol. The
Ambassador also stressed the need to find ways to resolve
the issue of halal slaughter procedures that have
effectively kept U.S. poultry meat out of the Egyptian
market for many years. The Ambassador used the opportunity
to thank the Minister for allowing exports of palm fronds
from Egypt to the United States to be used in the
celebrations for the Jewish holiday of Succot. End Summary

--------------------------------------------- -------------
Avian Influenza Related Ban on Imports of Poultry Products
--------------------------------------------- -------------

2. On November 14, 2005, Ambassador Ricciardone,
accompanied by the Agricultural Counselor and Econ Officer,
met with the Egyptian Minister of Agriculture, Ahmed El
Leithy, to discuss a range of bilateral issues. The most
pressing issue discussed during the meeting was the recent
decree issued by the Minister to ban imports of all poultry
products from all sources to protect against the possibility
of transmitting avian influenza (AI) to the Egyptian
domestic flock.

3. The Ambassador pointed out that a blanket ban of this
nature without regard to the exporting country's AI status
was excessive and not consistent with guidelines issued by
international organizations such as the OIE and the FAO. He
raised the specific issue of shipments of feather meal
coming from the U.S. to Egypt and stressed that the United
States was AI free at this time, and that the process to
produce feather meal involved extremely high temperatures,
which should eliminate any threat posed by the potential
presence of AI in products of this type.

4. The Ambassador informed the Minister that three
shipments of feather meal, valued at almost $400,000 had
arrived at the Egyptian ports and are not being allowed
entry in spite of the fact that they either arrived in Egypt
prior to the GOE ban being announced or were already on the
water when the ban was imposed. The Ambassador requested
the Minister to help with obtaining clearances through the
port procedures for all these shipments to avoid any
additional demurrage costs to the Egyptian importers.

5. Minister El Leithy responded that although he issued the
decree to impose this AI-related ban, the decision was
actually made by a committee that consisted of Ministers of
Agriculture, Health, Environment, and Aviation. While the
Minister was sympathetic to the Embassy concerns, any
decision to remove the ban or make exceptions for individual
shipments would have to be made by the Ministerial
Committee. The Minister asked the Embassy to make a written
request and promised to present it to the Committee with a
positive recommendation from the Ministry of Agriculture to
make an exception for the shipments that had departed from
the United States before the ban was announced.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
Ban on U.S. Poultry Meat Imports Due to Halal Slaughter
--------------------------------------------- -------------

6. The Ambassador stressed the need to resolve the
longstanding issue of halal slaughter procedures in the U.S.
to remove this non-tariff trade barrier. The Ambassador
recognized that this restriction was used primarily to
protect the domestic poultry industry, but argued that many
U.S. poultry products, especially turkey meat, could be a
great source of low priced protein for the Egyptian
consumers, and would not have any impact on the domestic
poultry industry.

7. The Minister responded that he was intrigued with the
possibility of importing turkey meat from the U.S., and
would like to look for ways to allow such imports once the
whole issue of the AI-related ban on all poultry products
was resolved. He indicated that the AI-related ban on all
poultry products was expected to remain in effect for three
months and hoped that the worldwide concerns about the AI
transmission would subside during this time. (Comment: This
is the first time that any senior GOE official has expressed
flexibility on the halal slaughter issue to allow imports of
any poultry products. Post will continue to pursue this
angle in the hope of eventually eliminating the halal
slaughter procedures concerns for good. End Comment)

--------------------------------------------- -------------
GOE Request to Help Establish a Biotechnology National
--------------------------------------------- -------------

8. The Ambassador informed the Minister that the Egyptian
Agricultural Counselor in Washington had asked for USG
assistance in establishing a Biotechnology National
Authority in the Ministry of Agriculture. He added that we
are ready to provide this assistance and a team of USDA
experts is coming to Egypt during the first week of
December. The Ambassador asked the Minister if this GOE
request had been made with his blessing and had a broader
approval of other GOE Agencies.

9. The Minister indicated that he wanted to pursue the idea
of establishing a National Authority in the Foreign
Relations section of the Ministry of Agriculture, and that
he had discussed this with the Minister of Environment. He
added that the Minister of Environment agreed with the MinAg
proposal to set up this Authority that would be a focal
point for legislation and establishing regulations for food
and agricultural products. The Minister welcomed the idea
of the USDA team coming to Egypt and asked that we
coordinate this team's visit with the Under Secretary of
Foreign Relations at MinAg, and the Director of the
Agricultural Genetic Engineering Institute.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
USG-GOE Cooperation on Surveillance for AI in Egypt
--------------------------------------------- -------------

10. The Ambassador told the Minister that the USG considers
AI a serious threat facing the international community and
offered assistance to the GOE in their efforts to expand
surveillance of the domestic poultry industry. The Egyptian
Under Secretary for Livestock production, who was present in
the meeting, responded that AgCounselor Chaudhry had
facilitated contacts between MinAg researchers and the U.S.
Naval Medical Research Unit (NAMRU). In addition, the
Ministry has drafted a detailed proposal to develop a joint
project with the USG to improve the Ministry's capacity to
conduct testing and surveillance of the domestic poultry
flock. The proposal will be forwarded to the AgCounselor to
coordinate a USG response.


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