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Disease-free Mindanao hog industry eyes bigger export market

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Hog raisers in Mindanao are eyeing a bigger export market as the local industry continues to be spared from African swine fever (ASF).

The Backyard Raisers Association in this city said while it sympathized with the situation of their counterparts in countries affected by ASF, this development had also opened up opportunities for them to export their meat products.

“The government should explore the opportunity of Mindanao as an exporter of meat to other countries,” said BSA Chairman Felimon Santander.

ASF has affected the hog industries in Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, the Ukraine, and China, so far.

“Huge hog farms in Mindanao could potentially indulge in exports especially to Singapore and other neighboring countries,” Santander added.

He also said that aside from being ASF-free, Mindanao is also not affected by foot-and mouth-disease and avian influenza or bird flu. (READ: Philippine pork safe, not affected by African swine fever)

Santander said their members would remain vigilant against the entry of ASF into the country.

“We will try to police our ranks if possible, help the agencies that the Asian swine fever will not enter the country. We conduct meetings and inform them about ASF,” he said.

He said unlike commercial hog raisers, backyard raisers are generally lax on bio-security measures. Santander added that it was also difficult at this point to convince subsistence raisers, or those raising pigs for their own consumption, to stop using food wastes for hog feed.

On August 30 last year, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol issued Memorandum No. 22 that prohibits feeding food scraps/wastes to pigs, especially if the waste came from  airports and seaports – potential entry points of contaminated pork products.

Maria Teresa Bacayo, head of the Veterinary Quarantine Services of the Bureau of Animal Industry in Southern Mindanao, said they also continue to prevent the possible entry of ASF by confiscating meat products suspected to have come from ASF-stricken areas.

She said that in January alone, they burned 80 kilograms of processed meat from countries such as China.

Government data showed that Southern Mindanao has about 904,900 hogs as of January 1, 2018.

Santander said backyard swine-raising accounts for 65% of that figure.

In South Cotabato, an officer of the South Cotabato Swine Producers Association (SOCOSPA) said the government should continue instituting mitigating measures in the event the country gets ASF cases.

SOCOSPA has a combined 55,000 hog population, and produces more than 45,000 heads of hogs a month from 20 big swine farms alone.

The biggest hog producer is Biotech Farms in Banga, South Cotabato, which has a 10,000-head output a month.

On its Facebook page, Biotech Farms said it “is implementing stringent biosecurity measures to prevent the entry of African swine fever.”

In the 1980s, South Cotabato supplied 20% of the hog requirement of Metro Manila and the swine industry was one of its biggest revenue earners.

Piñol said on Monday, February 18, that the government was doing its best to prevent the entry of the disease and that he would issue an order to include Vietnam in the list of countries with banned pork imports, following reports that it had cases of swine disease.

Piñol had earlier also temporarily prohibited pork products from Japan.

“We have to protect our hog industry from diseases even if that would mean closing our borders to pork coming from high risk or ASF affected countries,” he said.

The agriculture secretary said the hog industry is a vital sector in Philippine agriculture.

“It is growing tremendously through the efforts of stakeholders,” Piñol said.

The move to protect the local hog industry all the more became expedient given that the country will soon export pork meat and pork products to Singapore, Piñol revealed. –