With the confirmation that a meat processor has shipped pork products contaminated with the African Swine Fever (ASF), we can now understand why local government units (LGUs) in the Visayas and Mindanao have banned pork coming from Luzon.
But what has become more glaring after this development is the need not just to thoroughly check pork products from Luzon, but more importantly the pork shipments from other countries.
The Bureau of Animal Industries (BAI) report said that the ASF-contaminated meat products — hotdogs, longganisa, and tocino — produced by a Manila-based processor actually used imported pork. This means that while the government is too busy culling pigs in farms and backyards in some areas in Luzon to prevent the spread of ASF, the bigger threat to the Philippines’ hog industry is actually coming from the outside.
While local hog raisers are weeping as they see their sources of livelihood being taken away by authorities for culling, we are letting ASF-positive pork products from abroad into our homes.
Recent tally showed that the government already culled 62,000 pigs in backyard and commercial farms in Luzon. This, of course, is a very small percentage of the country’s swine inventory, which was estimated at 12.7 million heads as of July 2019.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the population of swine in backyard farms is 8.02 million heads, while stocks in commercial farms stood at 4.68 million heads.
Among the regions, Central Luzon recorded the highest swine inventory of 2.21 million heads. This was followed by CALABARZON and Western Visayas with stocks of 1.53 million heads and 1.23 million heads, respectively. The combined stocks of these three regions accounted for 39.1 percent of the country’s total swine inventory.
The government had said that ASF has been confirmed in various areas of Bulacan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Rizal, Quezon City and Nueva Ecija, which means that south of Metro Manila, the disease is still not present.
Stopping the spread of the ASF to protect the country’s swine industry requires joint public-private efforts.
On the part of the private sector, particularly the P300-billion meat processing industry, prudence should be exercised n the sourcing of pork from abroad. If one of its players has been confirmed to be using ASF-contaminated imported pork, who could tell if there are others in its ranks that are doing it also? The industry just gave the LGUs in the Visayas and Mindanao more reasons to ban their products. Lobbying the government to stop the LGUs’ blanket ban on pork products from Luzon should go hand in hand with concrete proofs that their products are really ASF-free. What if those ASF-contaminated hotdogs, longganisa and tocino have found their way into the Visayas and Mindanao?
On the part of the government, more measures should be taken to ensure pork products from other countries are being properly tested before they are allowed entry into the ports. An automatic ban should be imposed on pork products from countries with known ASF cases.
We are not saying that the government should now ban imported pork while culling is being done in ASF-contaminated farms—not yet. But if more meat processors are found to be importing pork products that are ASF-positive, then that’s another story.
The real enemy, it appears, is not coming from our own backyard.