MANILA, Philippines – Hog industry stakeholders are calling on authorities to further limit pork imports, saying this would prevent African swine fever (ASF) from entering the country.
At a Senate hearing on Wednesday, March 20, National Federation of Hog Farmers chairman Chester Warren Tan said the Philippines can already make do without pork importation.
"We're not saying, for the record, that us stakeholders are against importations, since we have a 94% self-sufficiency rate. But if we'll need to import, we should only import what we need," he said.
Tan questioned why the Department of Agriculture (DA) agreed in 2018 to allow the entry of as much as 440 million kilograms (kg) of meat, leading to buffer stock that could last for 60 to 70 days.
Without importation, the Philippines only has a shortage of 22 to 23 days or 100 million kg. (READ: Disease-free Mindanao hog industry eyes bigger export market)
With plenty of buffer stock, Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries Chairperson Rufina Salas suggested a temporary total ban on pork imports.
"There is enough [buffer stock for meat] to cover 60 days as of now, so we're asking for a temporary total ban on importation of pork even from countries...not ASF-infected," Salas said.
Agriculture Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Segfredo Serrano said, however, that banning pork imports from countries without ASF would not be justified.
"If you ban countries with very clean ASF records, like the whole of America, then we would have a problem because we have no legal reason," he said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Canned goods, too?
There are also concerns that ASF might enter the Philippines through canned goods, since the virus can still survive in carcasses.
"So maybe the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) should recall imported canned goods from China, especially until China is cleared," Salas said.
The FDA said some 38 Chinese products are on market shelves.
So far, the government has implemented the "BABES" strategy to block ASF.
LOOK: What is the government doing to prevent the entry of ASF into the country? | @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/0juU4FLqjx — Anna Mogato (@AGAMogato) March 20, 2019
"The directive of the secretary (Emmanuel Piñol) is to also keep watch on the ports where fishermen working in the South China Sea land, and the Navotas Fish Port," Serrano said in a mix of English and Filipino.
"We can [also] require SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) certificates for hand-carried meat," he added.
Footbaths were also placed in airports as part of measures to block ASF.
If the virus enters the country, 413,000 backyard hog raisers who make up majority of the hog industry would be at risk, said Samahang Industriya ng Magsasaka chairman Rosendo So during the hearing.
It would in turn affect some two million Filipinos also engaged in the industry, which is valued at P341 billion. There is no cure or vaccine for ASF yet. – Rappler.com