DA to strengthen first-border inspection vs new ASF variants

Published May 7, 2021, 4:10 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Department of Agriculture (DA) will increase monitoring of pork imports coming into the country to prevent the entry of new African Swine Fever (ASF) variants that have started to cause problems in the hog sector of China, the world’s largest pork-producing country.

In a text exchange, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said there is a “need double our efforts for our monitoring and surveillance much more on smuggled pork and pork products”.
“We have strengthened our first border inspection and we will increase our monitoring and surveillance system,” he added.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar (MANILA BULLETIN)

Dar made the statement two days after Business Bulletin reported that China’s pig production has been compromised anew by the outbreak of new ASF variants, which appear to cause lameness in breeding sows and increased the piglet mortality rate in several parts of China.

Such an outbreak, according to the latest report of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), will make it hard for the world’s second-largest economy to recover in terms of hog output.

For his part, Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Director Reildrin Morales said the country has so far not yet detected the new ASF strains in locally produced hogs.

“In some articles that relate regarding new strains in China, these strains detected are due to unlicensed vaccines, two strains missing MGF360 and CD2v genes. We have not detected any introduction from China. We are putting a strong front on border protection,” Morales further said.

Due to ASF, the local hog industry has already suffered losses of around P68 billion, based on the estimates of Senator Francis Pangilinan. 

On Friday, Pangilinan renewed his call for a declaration of a national State of Calamity versus ASF. He stressed that the declaration would free up funds to address the problems caused by the disease and the much-needed biosafety protocols implementation in the areas would have its funding.

The private sector, he cited, now laments that its members are spending funds from their own pockets just to ensure that ASF does not reach their regions.

The other day, Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc. (ProPork) President Edwin Chen said the Philippine government is not capable to prevent the entry of new ASF variants that were recently detected in China.

“Time and time again we saw Yorme [Mayor Isko Moreno] apprehending smuggled meats in Manila. These meats can come from China and we know China has an ongoing outbreak of ASF variant strains,” Chen told Business Bulletin.

“Our government, sad to say, have been lax or is not capable of guarding our borders against diseases or pests from coming in,” he added.

ASF, a highly contagious and fatal disease among pigs, first originated in sub-Saharan Africa in

the 1920s. It was only in 2018 when the virus was detected in Asia and first began killing thousands of hogs in China.

Pangilinan said he would demand from the DA strict monitoring of the imports through a resolution to create a sub-committee within the department that would submit monthly reports on the status of the importations, as well as the status of their implementation of the campaign against ASF.