HOG growers in Mindanao have appealed to the government to intervene on the plan to ban the shipment of hogs to Cebu, which they fear could mean an adverse effect on the local economy and potential losses in millions of pesos for the industry.
In its December 3, 2014 letter to Department of Agriculture (DA)-Northern Mindanao Director Lealyn Ramos, the Northern Mindanao Hog Raisers Association Inc. (NorMinHog) has expressed apprehension on the shipment ban, being imposed by a shipping company that plies the Cagayan de Oro-Cebu route, saying it would have a negative impact on the market.
NorMinHog said only the NMC Container Lines Inc. accepts the regular shipment of live hogs all over the region from the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental to the port of Cebu.
A member of the group said another shipping firm, 2Go, owned and operated by 2Go Group Inc., also transports a portion of the total live hog load to Cebu although not frequently.
Fortunato Veñegas, NorMinHog president, said in the letter that with the coming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) integration next year, the hog growers would be “expecting stiffer competition” from other member-nations since the industry “[lacks] infrastructure support.”
Veñegas said “this situation (Asean integration) will certainly be aggravated by the impending cessation of wet cargo shipping services for the Cagayan de Oro-Cebu route,” which the group said will take effect July 2015.
“With this adverse marketing prospect, may we implore your official intercession to dissuade the concerned shipping company from implementing their decision to stop accepting wet cargoes for the Cagayan de Oro-Cebu route,” he added.
“Having a common notion that, indeed, there are economies of scale, many hog farmers have already geared to increase production capacities only to find themselves beset with this kind of marketing problem this early,” Veñegas said.
The group said it has yet to hear from the agriculture department.
At present, NorMinHog transports an average of 20 hog vans, about 11,000 heads, per week.
Hog growers are earning tens of millions of pesos from transporting live produce every month.
Dr. Benjamin Albarece, NorMinHog vice president, said the hog raisers spend about P28 million alone in shipping costs a year.
“There’s a big problem here,” Albarece told reporters during a press conference in a hotel in Cagayan de Oro City over the weekend, referring to NMC Container Lines’ plan to stop transporting hogs to Cebu.
With its proximity to Northern Mindanao, he said, NorMinHog finds it very convenient to ship its product to Cebu.
Transport of hogs costly to shipping lines
For his part, Danny Garcia, NMC Container Lines Mindanao area manager, said they are open to a dialogue with the hog raisers.
Garcia, the outgoing president of the Philippine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA), said they would formally notify the hog growers of their plan to stop shipment of live hogs sometime this month.
He explained to the members of NorMinHog that transporting of the hogs has been costly since they spend much for the maintenance of their ships due to corrosion, not to mention the organic wastes excreted by the livestock.
Garcia suggested to the group to switch from shipping live hogs to refrigerated carcasses, but Albarece refuted that if they do that, they will be competing with imported meats that are cheaper.
Besides, Albarece said, Northern Mindanao has no world-class cold storage facilities that would ensure the quality of slaughtered meat.
At present, he said NorMinHog sells live hogs to the buyers, which will then be slaughtered and brought straight to the wet markets for retail.
Difficulty in competing with imported meat
He added shipment of live hogs has been sustaining the growers’ business all these years.
Albarece said Northern Mindanao had tried shipping frozen pig carcass in the past but found it hard to compete with imported meat.
As far as financing and technical know-how are concerned, Albarece said they have been keeping the industry afloat without government intervention, and it is only now that they are asking the DA for help.
In spite of the shipping company’s move, he said they want to discuss this concern with the NMC Container Lines management.
Garcia said they are willing to sit down with NorMinHog and with other shipping firms to come up with a win-win solution.
During last Saturday’s meeting, the hog raisers considered using customized hog vans as one of the answers in addressing the issues raised the NMC Container Lines.