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Philippine pork safe, not affected by African swine fever – hog producers

MANILA, Philippines – There's no need to cut back on eating locally-produced pork despite an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in neighboring countries, according to the largest group of pork producers.

Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines (Pro-Pork) president Edwin Chen told Rappler in a phone interview that pork produced by local hog farms and backyard raisers remains safe.

"We've never had African swine fever, that's why we support the government's move to ban the importation of pork and pork products to keep our local industry safe," Chen said in a mix of Filipino and English, adding that he does not expect to see the demand for pork drop any time soon.

On Sunday, February 17, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said in a Facebook post that he will be signing a memorandum to implement a ban on the entry of Vietnamese pork and pork products on Monday, February 18.

Piñol added that Bureau of Animal Industry Director Ronnie Domingo recommended the ban after reports that Taiwanese authorities had intercepted imported Vietnamese pork which tested positive for ASF.

"The Philippines is one of the few countries in the world which is free from livestock diseases, including foot and mouth disease," Piñol said.

"Vietnam is the latest to be included in the list of countries which could not ship pork and pork products to the Philippines because of the ASF."

The Philippines earlier banned pork imports from Belgium, China, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine.

But Chen said that since the local hog industry produces around 21 million heads annually, there's hardly a need for importation.

"If there is a need to import, at least import from the countries that don't have any African swine fever," he added.

ASF is a viral infection which causes hemorrhagic fever and death for infected pigs. It could also be brought into the country through pork products, Chen said.

"There is no vaccine for this, no cure," he added.

Chen also clarified that eating pork infected with ASF does not pose any health concerns as the only effect ASF would have is a drop in heads produced.

In the meantime, Pro-Pork has launched a nationwide campaign to support local farmers and pork producers.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in its "Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade" report released in October 2018, said pork imports may rise by 11% to 300,000 metric tons (MT) in the Philippines this year to accommodate rising demand.

The gap in demand is projected to grow by 3.2% to 1.93 million MT, according to the report. (READ: FAST FACTS: How much meat does the Filipino consume?)

The USDA also said the Philippines' swine production this year may post a 1.87% increase to 1.63 million MT.

Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the swine industry saw a production increase from 2016 to 2018. Top 3 pork producers Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Northern Mindanao posted 4.41%, 3%, and 3.52% growth rates, respectively.

"As of 1 January 2019, total swine population reached 12.71 million heads," the PSA said, noting that this is 0.83% higher than last year's 12.60 million heads.

Inventory from backyard farms posted a 0.93% growth as of January 1 this year, higher than the 0.33% growth from a comparative period in 2018.

Commercial farms, meanwhile, saw a measly 0.66% growth in the same period from a 4.73% growth a year ago. –