MEAT processors said their products are safe to consume, as they sought to distance themselves from recent recall orders issued for pork products from African Swine Fever (ASF)-affected countries, including nearby Asian countries like Vietnam and China.

The Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI) said in a statement Saturday that it hoped to address concerns over the possible spread of the disease, and after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered the recall and seizure of meat products imported from ASF-infected countries like China, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam, Zambia, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Mongolia, Moldova, and Belgium.

Felix O. Tiukinhoy, president of PAMPI, also asked the FDA to be “cautious and specific in its pronouncements as they have led to confusion and uncertainty among consumers. Most of the ASF-infected countries do not export meat products to the Philippines.”

“Recall orders should be product-specific, identifying the brands and countries of origin, instead of general statements that are not helpful to consumers but are prejudicial to local manufacturers,” he said in the statement.

He also said PAMPI members are willing to help supermarket operators in systematically segregating domestic processed meat from imported ones.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has been implementing measures to protect the country from the entry of the ASF. It has submitted a request for two-month suspension of pork imports form ASF-affected countries, as well as those with high risk of being affected.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol has said that he would rather risk a rise in pork prices as a result of the measure than to allow the disease enter and devastate the P200-billion hog-raising industry.

“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?),” he said.

With shortages expected due to ASF, the DA said that it aims to export pork to affected countries.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, in the first quarter of 2019, the average farmgate price of hogs for slaughter fell 2.7% year-on-year to P110.52 per kilogram (kg), while total hog production was up 1.6% at 567,420 metric tons (MT). — Vincent Mariel P. Galang