AMID the African swine fever (ASF) scare, Secretary Ramon Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has called on local government units (LGUs) to ease their total ban on pork products in their areas and allow the entry of certified pork products, except those from identified areas in Rizal and Bulacan provinces.
The DTI, in a statement e-mailed to SunStar Cebu and posted on its website, joined the Department of Agriculture (DA), in assuring the public that raw pork with certifications from the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) and processed pork products from trusted brands are safe to consume and should not be banned in supermarkets and wet markets.
In Cebu, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia issued Executive Order (EO) 16, which amended earlier EOs, to implement a total ban on the entry of live hogs, pork, pork-related products, byproducts and boar semen from Luzon into Cebu for a period of 100 days.
“We are instituting very strict measures because there is a clear and present danger,” the governor said on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019.
The Provincial Veterinary Office is also closely monitoring backyard farmers, especially those who own more than 20 live hogs.
“If you own more than 20 live hogs, even if you have 21 hogs, that is already considered semi-commercial or a commercial business,” said Dr. Mary Rose Vincoy, provincial veterinarian.
Vincoy said these backyard farmers should register with the DA through the Bureau of Animal Industry so they can become legitimate hog dealers.
“Due to the ASF, these hog dealers were identified. Maybe they are afraid of the corresponding fees if they can distribute many live hogs,” she said.
Even though there is no case of the ASF in Cebu yet, local officials have remained vigilant to ensure that the disease does not enter the province.
According to the Central Visayas Pork Producers Cooperative (CeViPPco), it sourced its hogs from Bohol, Negros Oriental, South Cotabato, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte.
“We don’t have any pork from Luzon because Mindanao has many surplus, meaning have excess of production. Luzon is also experiencing a shortage, so Mindanao is also sending hogs to Luzon,” said Nonon Tambago, CeViPPco president.
Tambago assured that consuming pork in Cebu is safe.
In local markets in Metro Cebu, prices of pork have remained stable despite the DA’s confirmation of an ASF outbreak in several areas in Bulacan and Rizal in Luzon.
According to DTI-Cebu, there was no significant increase or decrease in prices of pork despite the drop in demand.
“There is no shortage of supply. In fact, most retailers and vendors are saying there is less demand this week because consumers are cautious in buying pork because of the DA’s confirmation of ASF in Bulacan and Rizal,” said DTI-Cebu Director Esperanza Melgar.
She said they monitored the prices of pork in supermarkets and three wet markets last Sept. 16 and these had not moved.
Prices of pork ham ranged from P216 to P260; pork belly, P210 to P265; and porkchop, P195 to P247.
In Metro Manila, the DTI, along with the DA and the National Food Authority, monitored the prices of pork products in the Farmers Market, Mega Q Mart and Kamuning Public Market on Thursday, Sept. 19. They found that the prevailing prices of pork were around P200 to P220, but vendors said that public fear of the ASF affected pork demand.
Meanwhile, pork meat brands found in supermarkets and groceries certified by the Food and Drug Administration are produced by member-companies of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. These only use raw materials certified by the Veterinary Quarantine Certification by NMIS, Secretary Lopez said. These meat products like the canned goods and hotdogs are cooked. Therefore, these products are safe to consume and must not be banned, he said.
Lopez advised consumers who shop in wet markets to ask vendors to present their NMIS certificates, issued every day by the NMIS. These certificates are proof that these pork products have been tested and found free of ASF.
According to DA Secretary William Dar, there is no national outbreak of ASF. The virus is contained in select areas in Rizal and Bulacan and the DA is currently containing the situation.
ASF is a virus that is contagious to pigs but is not communicable to humans. But the DTI advised the public to thoroughly cook their pork and other meat products to ensure that all bacteria and viruses are eliminated. The DTI-Consumer Protection Group is working closely with the DA to monitor the situation to ensure that consumers always have safe and affordable food options. (PR, RSR, JOB)