MEAT processors said they expect supply to be pressured if the government responds to demands from sections of the agriculture industry to ban pork imports.

Farm groups are asking the government to ban pork imports and implement a stricter quarantine regime to prevent the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) after infected hogs were found in Rizal, Bulacan and Quezon City.

Some provinces have responded to the panic by restricting the inward movements of pork products entirely to protect thir hog industries

“You could zone geographically, but you cannot zone economically,” Rex B. Agarrado, spokesperson of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI), told reporters after the group’s news conference.

“What I mean is hatiin moyung (if you divide the) area, madali (it’s easy),” though it will mean regional specialty meats like tocino will be in short supply in may areas while remaining in surplus in Pampanga, a major producer.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has implemented a so-called 1-7-10 protocol, under which all hogs within one klometer are culled and buried, while those within a seven-kilometer radius are prevented from leaving the area and animal movements are monitored within an outer ring of 10 kilonmeters.

Cebu and Bohol provinces have both declared a total ban on the shipment of pork and pork products from outside their borders.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar has appealed to the provincial governments to reconsider their total ban.

“In these trying times, particularly in protecting our shores from the challenges of major diseases such as ASF, we appeal for unity and brotherhood among our countrymen, most particularly our local chief executives,” he said in a statement.

“While we wish to protect our respective borders, we should not limit the movement of goods, most particularly food,” he added.

The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) has said that the government should suspend pork imports until it is able to come up with a better biosecurity system.

“That policy will not only ensure animal protection from ASF infection. It will also ensure that proper tariffs and duties are paid,” it said in a statement.

“The Bureau of Customs (BoC) currently does not have the full capability to carry out strict biosecurity system that will guarantee that no imported meat products infected with ASF will enter the country,” it said.

The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) has also asked the Department of Agriculture to immediately suspend imports of pork and pork products.

Mr. Agarrado of the meat processors’ association expressed the group’s opposition to such an action since this will affect its members’ production of pork products, since the industry needs to import much of its raw materials.

“It [ban of imports] is not the solution. This is not something that can be managed by closing borders,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said supervision over the movements of processed meat products should be returned to the DA, after it had been transferred to the Food and Drug Administration by Republic Act No. 10611, or the Food Safety Act of 2013.

He said that a bill was filed in Congress about three weeks ago to amend the law.

Meat processors also warned that some members have decided to reduce production for the year-end holidays due to uncertainty over restrictions to meat distribution. One company has decided to halt production entirely. Jerome D. Ong, president and chief executive officer of Foodsphere, Inc. said that the company is reducing its production of Christmas ham by 15-20%. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang