Minister sheds light on processed food, meat shortage

Azlan Othman

The temporary suspension of local Halal food inspectors visiting overseas abattoirs is the main reason for the current shortages of popular meat items such as lamb, nuggets, frankfurters and meatballs inBrunei Darussalam.

This was disclosed yesterday by Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah, during a press conference on the latest COVID-19 situation in the country.

“The inspectors would need to undergo two weeks of quarantine when travelling abroad and upon their return to the country. Moreover, they would incur huge expenses during such an extended trip abroad,” he said.

“Insya Allah, once the pandemic recedes, the inspectors will be able to travel again. However, this shortage is also giving an opportunity for local abattoirs to come up with ways of making nuggets and other processed food.

“Recently, a local company has acquired a machine for making nuggets. Once essential travel is permitted, technicians from abroad can assist in setting up the equipment for the production of nuggets and sausages.

“With regards to the lamb shortage, it is a different challenge,” he added.

Members of the public were told that apart from the quarantine period, other factors must be taken into account, such as the inspectors’ allowances, mandatory swab tests and the high cost of air fares during the current pandemic.

Additionally, if the inspector becomes infected with the coronavirus, the food company is required to pay for the cost of treatment.

Local restaurateurs are also affected by a shortage in frozen meat caused by the imposition of lockdowns in several countries from where the food items are imported
As a result, food-importing businesses have been hard hit by the disruption in Halal protocol procedures. They are unsure when they can import frozen products again.

A local distributor, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that with the suspension of processed food, chicken and beef imports, he has started selling other products such as fish, to counter losses.

“Consuming fish is a healthier option,” he said. “Still, local businesses have been doing well since the travel ban for non-essential travel was enforced in March.”