MOST Filipinos love to eat pork, next to chicken.
Based on a Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report on food consumption in February 2017, consumption of pork per person was 8.9 kilograms yearly. Per capita consumption of chicken was higher at 9.32 kilograms.
Annual consumption of other kinds of meat per person was much lower at 1.04 kilograms of beef, 0.18 kilogram of carabeef and 0.1 kilogram of goat meat (chevon).
When African Swine Fever (ASF) cases were confirmed in the top two biggest swine producing regions in the country, even disease-free regions felt the impact as more than 60 local governments prohibited the entry of shipments of pork and its by-products from Luzon.
Despite government efforts to show that pork from non-ASF areas is safe for human consumption, the ASF scare has persisted. Demand for pork went down. So did farm gate prices. The price of pork in supermarkets, however, remained high. Prices of other kinds of meat also went up.
Hog raisers, even those whose farms are ASF-free, were hit hard.
Paul Dumont, co-founder of Shekinah Farm in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, said their sales went down drastically.
"Our sales are down drastically...very drastically! (We) nearly shut down even if we are not affected (by ASF). We are investigating ways to increase sales locally to offset loss of revenues," he said in an online interview.
Shekinah Farm has an inventory of 400 heads, about 80 percent of which was intended for the Negros Oriental market while 20 percent was for shipment to Cebu.
"Our market was 80 percent local within Negros Oriental but the ASF scare has diminished local consumption. Our export market to Cebu is from 20 percent of our business to zero," he added.
Homegrown meat processors now have the local markets to themselves with the absence of the big companies from Manila, but they are worried that they could not fill the gap.
The Visayas and Mindanao consume about 40 percent of processed meat produced in the country, a source in the meat processing industry said.
Processors said they could not also readily increase production because most locally raised hogs could not meet their stringent requirements.
The ban on pork shipments has directly affected restaurants whose branches in areas outside Metro Manila source their supplies from the capital.
In Cebu, it did not take long for restaurants like Chowking and the Max's Group to run out of pork and stop serving dishes with pork and its by-products.
ASF is a disease affecting pigs and wild boars with up to 100-percent case fatality rate. Symptoms include hemorrhage in the skin, lack of appetite and weakness.
It does not affect humans.
Cases have been confirmed in 24 areas in the provinces of Rizal, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Cavite as well as in the cities of Quezon, Caloocan and Malabon in Metro Manila. Around 70,000 pigs from these areas have been culled, the government said in its report to the World Organization for Animal Health.
Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Pampanga are part of Central Luzon, the biggest swine producer in the country, while Rizal and Cavite are part of Calabarzon, the second top swine producer.
In 2018, before the ASF outbreak was confirmed, Central Luzon and Calabarzon had stocks of 16.16 million heads and 12.35 million heads, respectively.
As of July 1, 2019, before the ASF outbreak, the Philippines had a total swine inventory of 12.7 million heads. The bulk, or 8.02 million heads, were from backyard raisers while the rest, 4.68 million heads, were from commercial farms.
As soon as the outbreak was confirmed, local governments outside the affected areas adopted stringent quarantine measures to protect their respective swine sectors.
Here is how some cities and provinces are coping.
Negros Occidental province in Western Visayas, through the Provincial Task Force against ASF chaired by Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, imposed a ban on shipments of pork and processed pork products from Luzon for 90 days starting September 11, 2019. An extension of such ban is being considered.
Western Visayas region was the third biggest swine producer in 2018, with an inventory of 9.85 million heads as of January 1, 2019.
On October 1, 2019, Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia also issued Executive Order (EO) 29 to ban for 90 days the entry of live pigs, carcass, pork, and pork products and by-products originating from or processed in Luzon and in certain countries.
The ASF scare has caused demand for pork to go down and demand for other kinds of meat to increase, leading to higher prices.
The Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO) said the price of beef went up by P1.83 per kilogram in July to October 2019. Chevon or goat meat and dressed chicken were more expensive by P3.22 and P1.66 per kilogram, respectively.
The price of pork, meanwhile, decreased by P14.95 per kilogram to P203.74 in October from P218.50 in July.
Provincial Veterinarian Renante Decena said the lower price of pork was due to the weakened purchasing capacity of consumers and the ASF scare, which persisted despite government efforts to show that pork is safe for human consumption.
“The low demand for pork resulted in increase of available supply which eventually led to lower price of the commodity,” he added.
To help local swine raisers cope with the low demand and low prices, the provincial government is providing marketing support by forging linkages with buyers from neighboring provinces such as Cebu and Aklan.
Decena said Negros Occidental is shipping one container van of pork per week to meat shops in Cebu beginning November.
Decena also said the province is making arrangements to allow backyard raisers in Negros Occidental to continue exporting live pigs to Cebu despite the stringent quarantine regulations.
“The local backyard swine raisers successfully shipped almost 2,000 heads of live pigs for the month of October,” he said.
A buyer from Cagayan De Oro City in Northern Mindanao, meanwhile, will also use the slaughterhouse and cold storage facility in Kabankalan City. The buyer will regularly buy live pigs and process the same at the said slaughterhouse.
Decena said they expected an improvement in the demand for and price of pork as the holidays near.
The Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) had the second lowest swine inventory at 1.8 million heads as of January 1, 2019.
On September 17, 2019, Benguet Governor Melchor Diclas ordered a temporary ban on the entry of live pigs, fresh and frozen pork and all pork products from provinces and cities within a 10-kilometer radius from ASF-affected areas.
In his Executive Order 2019-36, Diclas said that although ASF is not transferrable to people, there is a need to prevent the entry of the disease to protect the swine industry of the province.
Diclas, who is also a medical doctor, urged the Philippine National Police and the Provincial Veterinarian's Office to strictly enforce quarantine protocols and food safety measures.
Provincial Veterinarian Miriam Tiongan said inspectors were deployed to seven quarantine areas across Benguet to monitor shipments of pork, processed pork and live pigs for 24 hours every day.
The quarantine areas are located on Marcos Highway and Kennon Road as well as in Tadiangan, Banangan in Sablan, Bokod, Bangao in Buguias and Colalo in Mankayan.
The provincial governments of Mountain Province and Abra have also banned the entry of pigs and all pork products.
Despite the ban, local officials have assured that there would be enough supply of pork for the holidays. Demand, however, is low, said Cameron Odsey, Department of Agriculture Cordillera regional executive director.
"There is no problem with the supply, enough to meet the demands of the buyers. The problem is the demand because the public, gusto munang umiwas (they want to play safe)," Odsey said.
Benguet usually imports pigs from nearby provinces in Luzon but Tiongan said there is a limited delivery due to the enforcement of "1-7-10 protocol" to control the virus.
This means that quarantine checkpoints have been set up in areas within a one-kilometer radius of suspected farms.
Transport of live pigs, pork, and pork products are closely monitored.
Karl Kigis, regional ASF coordinator, said Cordillera remains ASF-free.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Cordillera said no other processed meat pork products were pulled out of grocery shelves in the region aside from Mekeni.
Joel Art Tibaldo, DTI–Cordillera public information officer, said they have started conducting weekly inspections of groceries selling pork-based ham to ensure that these are ASF-free.
“On ham products, there is abundant stocks that we have seen in the shelves of grocery stores and at present, there is still a good volume of supply of the said products, and no other products were also pulled out from their showcase shelves,” Tibaldo said.
He also reminded vendors of raw meat to comply with the requirements and post their National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) certification and accreditation.
CAGAYAN DE ORO
Northern Mindanao was the fifth top swine producer in 2018, with 8.03 million heads as of January 1, 2019. In the region, Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental has imposed a temporary ban on the entry of fresh and frozen pork and processed pork products from Luzon and ASF-affected countries.
Shortly after the government confirmed the ASF cases in Luzon, Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Vincente “Bambi” Emano imposed a temporary ban on the entry of pigs and pork products from ASF-affected areas.
He also created the Task Force ASF-Free Misamis Oriental.
Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation Inc. (Oro Chamber) president Irene Floro said local meat processors have been unable to meet the demand. She was worried because the demand for pork normally spikes in December.
"The demand for meat right now and the availability of stocks is still a big problem. I think in the entire country around P23 billion losses na because the industry cannot supply the demand of the public because of the African Swine Fever," Floro said.
She added that locally there's enough supply of pork meat, but most of the meat processors in the region still prefer imported meat as it is cheap compared to local meat.
"I've talked to several meat processors. A lot of them still rely on imported meat because of the price," Floro said.
The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (Pampi), meanwhile, has asked the Provincial Government of Misamis Oriental to review the products covered by the ban.
In a letter addressed to Governor Yevgeny Emano, Pampi said the inclusion of processed pork products in the executive order should be "clarified and be made more specific to align with the accepted international standards in fighting animal diseases."
"In particular, may we point out that most processed meat products -- pork, beef or poultry -- are fully cooked or smoked at temperatures ranging from a minimum of 70 degrees Celsius to max of 121 degrees Celsius for 40 to 70 minutes," the letter read.
At these temperatures, Pampi said all harmful bacteria and viruses, including the ASF virus, if any, are killed and destroyed.
"Thus, processed pork products which are cooked, smoked or treated at the temperatures mentioned cannot be a threat to the hog industry as potential carriers of the ASF virus," Pampi said.
"We adhere to the scientific findings of the World Organization for Animal Health of which the Philippine government is a member that it takes only an exposure of 30 minutes at 70 degrees Celsius to inactivate and destroy the ASF virus," it added.
Despite the ban, Misamis Oriental Provincial Veterinarian Benjamin Resma said there is enough supply of pork in the province until the end of this year.
But there is no assurance that supply would be sufficient next year because of the decision of commercial swine raisers not to expand production.
“Karon wala pa tay problema sa supply pero moabot gyud sa next year nga magkulang gyud (At present, we have no problem with the supply, but by next year, our supply would not be enough),” Resma said.
Should supply run short, Resma said the price of pork would increase.
At present, the farm gate price of pork in Misamis Oriental is P90 per kilogram.
“Pag P90 man gud, alkansi na ta. Dapat gyud naa sya sa mga P120, P150 or P110. Karon naa na sa P90 ubos. Pero pag- abot sa market, sa mga mall, mao ra gihapon ang presyo, mahal,” Resma said.
Meanwhile, the farm gate price of chicken has increased to P170 to P180 per kilogram.
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia has extended and expanded the ban on live hogs, pork and by-products.
Under Garcia's Executive Order (EO) 23 issued on November 6, 2019, the ban now covers all kinds of meat (chicken, beef or fish) and any kind of food product that have been stored in the same cold storage facility with pork, pork-related products and by-products from Luzon.
The ban, which was to lapse on December 28, 2019, has been extended to June 30, 2020.
Because of the ban, restaurants that source all their supplies from Manila have run out of pork and are no longer serving pork-based dishes.
Lechon Festival at Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center
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