DA to bring up to 30,000 hogs from VisMin to Luzon every week

Published October 29, 2020, 5:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Department of Agriculture (DA) will attempt to facilitate the shipment of as much as 30,000 hogs from Visayas and Mindanao to Luzon in order to address what it calls “artificial” price increase of pork being experienced now in Metro Manila. 

The weekly shipments will commence next week up to December and will come from the main ports of Davao, General Santos, and Cagayan de Oro, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.

Such decision came a day after the DA lifted the import ban on pork coming from Belgium, and at the same time after Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) called out the agency for its plan to consider temporarily suspending the inter-island movement of Luzon-based livestock transport carriers used to pick-up and transport live hogs from the islands of Visayas and Mindanao.

This is to “arrest the spread of ASF [African Swine Fever] to protect remaining disease-free areas in the country by enhancing current biosecurity protocols”, Dar said in the draft of a DA Administrative Order.

“It is most ironic that the DA remains ambivalently strict in the movement of local agriculture products in the country but continues to allow the unhampered entry of agricultural imports,” SINAG Chairperson Rosendo So said.

“We squarely blame the spread of ASF and the increasing pork prices, other animal/aquatic diseases and plant diseases (such as Avian Flu, Foot and Mouth Disease, Salmonella, Weevil or bukbok for rice) in the country because of our continuous inability to thoroughly examine imported agricultural and food products at our ports of first entry,” he further said.

As of October 27, the prevailing price for pork (ham) stood at P300 per kilogram (/kg), while it is P320/kg for pork (belly), based on the price monitoring report of the DA. This means that pork in Metro Manila is now as expensive as beef, which costs about P300 to P380/kg.

The DA is blaming such “artificial price increase” to errant traders and hog raisers who are potentially manipulating the supply, while SINAG said it’s the government’s inability to help hog raisers from Visayas and Mindanao to ship their live pigs to Luzon during the pandemic.

For their part, the DA said there’s only a need to heighten pork shipments since this has already been happening since May. 
So far, DA already helped facilitate shipments of as much as 100,000 hogs from Visayas and Mindanao, the agency claimed. 

“We will elevate our partnerships with hog producers and traders, ship owners and operators, and local government officials in Visayas and Mindanao to supply Metro Manila and Luzon with hogs and frozen pork, and eventually bring down prices for the benefit of consumers,” said Dar.

“This is a problem of logistics – including sourcing, distribution and marketing – which we can address without difficulty. All we ask is the full cooperation of key players in the entire hog industry value chain,” he added.

For this plan, Dar sought the assistance of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, who has already committed to work with shipping companies to increase the number and frequency of vessels plying the routes from Cagayan De Oro, General Santos, Davao, and other major ports in Visayas and Mindanao bound for Manila and other Luzon ports.

On Tuesday, the DA already lifted the temporary ban on the importation of domestic pigs, including their pork meat and semen, originating from Belgium.  

It was sometime in 2018 when Belgium confirmed its first ASF outbreaks. As this happened, the DA, then led by former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, immediately imposed a temporary ban on pig and pork products coming from the European country.

The ban was kept even if Belgium has been free from the deadly swine disease since the middle of 2019.

Belgium currently has 6.2 million pigs, according to its report to the World Health Organisation (OIE).