Recovery of Philippines swine sector seen

Danessa Rivera - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Stricter biosecurity measures, the availability of African swine fever (ASF) vaccines and supportive long-term policy are key in ensuring the recovery of the Philippine swine sector, according to industry stakeholders.

The local swine sector is expected to recover from ASF in 2024, five years after the outbreak in 2019, based on the latest forecast of Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (OECD-FAO).

In its 10-year Global Agricultural Outlook (2022 to 2031), the OECD-FAO said the global pork production is projected to rise by 17 percent at the end of the 10-year outlook period, up from an ASF-reduced base level 2019-2021 and benefiting from increasing specialization of the sector and biosecurity measures.

However, the report noted that growth would remain limited in the first years of the outlook due to the ongoing recovery from the outbreaks of ASF in China, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

It expects the recovery process to be completed in China and Vietnam by 2023 and in the Philippines by 2024.

“Government strategies in the latter two are based on the development of a commercially available vaccine to control the spread of ASF, which will be critical in reducing the risks of future ASF outbreaks,” the OECD-FAO said.

Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines president Rolando Tambago agreed, noting that the country can only determine swine industry recovery from ASF with the availability of vaccines.

“There is a good chance a vaccine will be available next year for the Philippine farmers so let’s just wait for it. We are hoping for a local trial of NAVETCO ASF vaccine (developed by Vietnam and the US) will start soon,” he said in a text message to The STAR.

If this pushes through, Tambago said this would be the third vaccine trial, noting that the trial of the vaccine made by animal healthcare firm Zoetis was not successful.

“We are really hoping to fast-track local trial and be successful,” he said.

The group is also pushing for a higher budget for the indemnification fund next year.

“Our suggestion is at least P9 billion for indemnification funds to stop the spread of ASF. While there are protocols and control measures implemented by government, the disease continuously spreads all over the country, except in Central Visayas, in Regions 6 and 7,” Tambago said.

“We believe, by doing that, it will control the spread of ASF until the vaccines arrive,” he said.

Currently, ASF-free areas are Regions 12, 6 and 7.

Meanwhile, the country also needs to further step up its biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of ASF as the local hog industry starts to repopulate, according to Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG).

In a phone interview, SINAG president Rosendo So said the vaccine could take more time, so border inspection would be critical for the industry to fully recover.

“It’s more on strict biosecurity measures on meat coming into our country to stop the spread of ASF. We may even recover from ASF earlier than 2024,” he said.

Last month, the United States and the Philippines teamed up for a project to strengthen the country’s local veterinary services for safe pork and pork products.

The project is funded the US Department of Agriculture   Foreign Agricultural Service   Emerging Markets Program and implemented by the University of Minnesota.

Under the project, technical officials of the DA will receive a two-week training in the US to equip them with relevant knowledge to conduct workshops across the Philippines to help combat the spread of ASF.

Tambago said the project was a “timely initiative that will enhance the industry’s competence on disease control.”

For his part, National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc. president Chester Tan said the knowledge gained from the project “can be cascaded to our Asian neighbors to better equip farmers in their fight against ASF.”

Through the USDA-funded Building Safe Agricultural Food Enterprises (B-SAFE) project, the United States currently assists Philippine hog farmers in their repopulation efforts by strengthening biosecurity measures at the farm level.

So far, the farmgate price of pork has already decreased, Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for consumer affairs and spokesperson Kristine Evangelista said.

“With this, we can expect that retail prices will go down, especially as our industry partners – the traders and retailers – gave their commitment on the matter during our consultation meeting,” she said.

As an effect, prevailing retail prices per kilogram as of Aug. 12 were at P330 for pork ham (kasim) and P340 for pork liempo.

Due to limited supply caused by ASF, prices of kasim reached P400 a kilo while pork liempo even soared to P450 per kilogram.

Despite efforts to control ASF and the repopulation of hogs, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) still expects a supply deficit in pork, among others, which is seen to affect inflation for the rest of the year.

It said the pork supply deficit is estimated at 65,800 metric tons (MT).

Meanwhile, the DA forecasted a supply deficit of around 120,000 metric tons of pork for this year.

Tambago agreed with the figures, noting that there is still a shortage in pork all over the country.

Apart from the spread of ASF, the local swine sector is suffering from the continuous increase in input costs and low confidence of producers to increase production.

To help in addressing the high cost of production, the government should support the corn sector, which is a major source of feeds of the swine industry, through subsidies, mechanization and post-harvest facilities.

“Why won’t government support or subsidize corn sector. We already have a big market here in the country. There is huge demand for corn not only from swine but also from the poultry and aquaculture sectors,” Tambago said.

If the corn industry recovers, the cost of production will decline and will drive lower the cost of production of pork.

Meanwhile, the confidence of pork producers plummeted due to the deluge of imports and lower tariffs.

In May last year, then president Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order (EO) 133, which increased the minimum access volume (MAC) for pork meat to 254,210 metric tons for 2021 from 54,210 MT, as one of the measures to augment local pork supply and stabilize prices in the market.

Duterte also signed EO 134, which provides that in-quota pork imports or those under the MAV are imposed a 10-percent tariff for three months and then 15 percent in the remaining months. This is lower than the original rate of 30 percent.

Out-quota pork imports are slapped with a 20-percent tariff for the first three months, which is raised to 25 percent in the remaining months. This is lower than the original tariff of 40 percent.

Earlier this year, Duterte signed EO 171, which extended the 15-percent in-quota and 25-percent out quota tariff rates for pork until Dec. 31.

In raising the confidence of pork producers, the importation policy should be changed and be done only as needed.

“The pork industry doesn’t really need subsidies. What we need is policies to make environment more favorable to us to be able to produce. If we rely on government in terms of increasing production, nothing will happen. The pork industry is a private-driven industry. The private industry is ready to invest if policies are long term and favorable,” Tambago said.

As the “ber” months approach, the local swine industry is working double time to meet the demand as pork is a major ingredient in Filipino Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.

“We are really trying to increase our volume especially in areas still negative from ASF,” Tambago said.


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