MEAT processors said the Department of Agriculture (DA) should discuss more comprehensively the causes of African Swine Fever (ASF) to increase the public’s understanding of how the disease spreads, as a counter to local government units seeking to ban the entry of their products.

The Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI) made the request after Laguna, Masbate, and Legazpi City joined the list of Local Government Units (LGUs) who have banned shipments of processed pork from ASF-affected areas in Luzon to prevent the spread of the disease to their farms.

PAMPI said in a statement that 67 of 81 provinces, or 83%, have imposed a ban on the entry of such products, despite an order from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) encouraging LGUs to lift their bans.

The meat processors have said that a failure to regain freedom of movement for their products could cost them more than P40 billion in lost sales, particularly with the approach of the year-end holidays, the peak period for products like ham.

The industry has seen its interests diverge with those of hog raisers, who want to quarantine processed pork products to preserve their herds.

According to the World Organization for Animal Health, ASF affects domestic and wild pigs, and does not pose any health risk to humans. There is no approved vaccine against the virus.

Since the announcement of the outbreak in September, the DA has blamed as the most probably cause swill feeding and the transportation of ASF-infected hogs from the outbreak’s ground zero in Rizal and Bulacan.

The first cases of ASF were confirmed by the DA on Sept. 9 in Rodriguez and Antipolo, Rizal and in Guiguinto, Bulacan, where backyard hog raisers relied on swill feeding.

The department is encouraging hog raisers to not feed their animals food scraps from hotels, restaurants, and airlines. It has also tightened security at ports of entry to ensure that no hogs, especially from infected areas, are transported to other areas.

PAMPI said that because of the bans, its members have decided to reduce production and stop purchasing domestically-grown pork.

“We do not want to expose ourselves to further risk by using locally-sourced pork that could be laden with ASF. There could be unscrupulous suppliers who could pass off meat from ASF-infected pigs,” PAMPI President Felix O. Tiukinhoy said in the statement.

PAMPI said it typically purchases 5% of its pork in the Philippines while importing the rest from countries unaffected by ASF.

PAMPI is the country’s largest group of meat processors. It has 88 member-companies, generating more about P300 billion in sales and directly employing 150,000 workers.