PH’s hog sector recovery from ASF not happening ‘til 2023 onwards

Published May 13, 2021, 10:30 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Philippines is now under a state of calamity for a period of one year due to African Swine Fever (ASF), but the government’s Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) said recovery of the local hog sector is expected to happen in 2023 yet.

During the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) webinar BAI Director Reildrin Morales said it will take two to three years for the local hog raisers – who already lost a combined amount of P68 billion due to ASF, to recover from the dreaded virus.

“We are looking two to three years. Given the momentum that we have, it will be good enough for us to get a good handle of ASF,” Morales said.

Morales projected this delayed recovery because “total eradication of the disease” may take even way longer. He also cited challenges in infrastructure gaps and bureaucratic issues to further complicate the sector’s recovery.

“Infrastructure is one of the major gaps,” Morales said. “We also don’t have a direct line of authority from national to local governments”.

The ASF was first detected in the Philippines in 2019. As of May 7 this year, the animal virus already resulted in the culling of 472,000 hogs.

The disease has caused the country’s total hog inventory to decline by 24 percent from 12.79 million in 2020 to 9.71 million so far for this year, data from Philippine Statistics Authority showed.

Janice Garcia, a veterinarian at BAI, also said that so far, ASF already affected 2,652 barangays across 12 regions in the country.

As an additional measure to address this lingering issue, which has been pushing up overall meat prices in the country, Malacañang recently issued Proclamation No. 1143, placing the entire Philippines in a state of calamity for a period of one year, unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstances may warrant.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the proclamation will pave the way for the release of more public funds to eradicate ASF and bankroll the government’s massive hog repopulation plan.

Dar, to be specific, said the Department of Agriculture (DA) now needs an additional P6.6 billion budget to arrest ASF spread and fund a three-year massive hog repopulation program, which will both cost the government at least P27 billion.

This, according to him, will also help the government allocate funds for regular testing of pigs and the eventual vaccination.

The DA also recently created an interagency research team for preliminary trials using Ivermectin and other agents with pharmacological properties in the country’s ASF control and prevention.

Ivermectin is a medication used to treat parasite infestations. US Food and Drug Administration noted that it is not an anti-viral or a drug for treating viruses.

Denis Kolbasov, president of Global African Swine Fever Research Alliance (GARA), said vaccination is not needed if only governments like the Philippines can do great in terms of early diagnostic, testing, traceability, and proper compensation of hog raisers.

“If you can identify the source, it’s easier to control. The main driver for ASF is humans. It’s important to communicate with farmers. You don’t need to have vaccines if all of these things are addressed,” Kolbasov said during the ECCP webinar.

In a separate briefing, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) Chair Rosendo So criticized the DA’s slow indemnification program for ASF-affected raisers, adding that it takes seven months to one year before they get paid for their culled pigs.

It is for this reason, he said, that a lot of hog raisers don’t want to surrender their pigs once ASF hits their areas.

The DA and hog raisers are also not on good terms these days, especially after the former made two big proposals that will result in the entry of an unprecedented volume of imported pork into the country.

These proposals are the higher minimum access volume (MAV) allocation for pork and the temporary tariff cut on pork imports.