THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it would rather see pork prices rise as a result of measures adopted to minimize the risk of African Swine Fever (ASF), than allow the disease to enter the country and devastate the P200- billion hog-raisng industry.

“(My) appeal (is to) look at this (from) a more intelligent perspective and tignan natin yung (let us look at the) implications” on the industry,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters.

Asked whether the measures taken to insulate the industry from ASF will make pork more expensive, he said: ”Of course we are looking at the effect of the move on prices, but ang tanong naming diyan, ano ang ipa-prioritize natin? Yung isa o dalawang pisong pag-taas ng baboy o yung pagkasira ng buong industriya na nagkakahalaga ng dalawang daang bilyon? (the question is, what do we prioritize? A one or two-peso increase in the price of pork or the destruction of the P200-billion industry?).”

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is proposing a two-month freeze on pork imports, which could restrict supply and drive prices up, while also allowing the cold storage industry to free up capacity. The lack of cold storage has been cited as a market bottleneck by hog growers, who are thus hindered from distributing their products to consumers.

The current pork inventory in cold storage is estimated to be sufficient for about four to five months.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered on May 27 the immediate recall and seizure of pork meat products imported to the Philippines from ASF-affected countries, specifically those manufactured and imported after August 2018.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), in the first quarter, the average farmgate price of hogs for slaughter fell 2.7% year-on-year to P110.52 per kilogram (kg). Hog production was up 1.6% at 567,420 metric tons (MT).

“We are pinning our hopes to our overseas Filipino workers (OFW), our Filipino citizens living abroad na meron tayong binabantayan na matinding sakit ng baboy na maaring makasira sa ating industriya (We are watching out for OFWs in countries that have the disease who might bring in pork products that can wreck our hog industry). Nakiki-usap kami na ipalaganap ninyo yung impormasyon na bawal na magpadala ng (We are asking that you spread the word that they are banned from bringing in] canned goods,” said Mr. Piñol.

The FDA has also warned the public against purchasing and consuming pork products from ASF-affected areas like China, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam, Zambia, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Mongolia, Moldova, and Belgium. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang