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Pigs instead of cash

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - May 12, 2021 - 12:00am

In one of my many trips around the Philippines where I helped promote backyard hog raising through the BMeg Fiestahan caravans, I came across an interesting “project” where a local government official, somewhere in the province of Pangasinan, tried to find a better way of uplifting the lives of his constituents beyond giving them the standard 4Ps cash subsidy.

In the process of finding an answer, the local official met with a hog-raising technician who suggested the idea of starting a pilot project for 4Ps recipients where they would buy piglets, tie-up with the local BMeg feeds dealer and form a 3-way cooperation to train, assist and facilitate matters for the pilot hog raising project. The idea was quite attractive to the recipients since their “waiting time” would only be five months +/- and if they do well they would more than double their money. All that happened and more: after the first harvest, the once poverty stricken participants had transformed into entrepreneurs and hog raisers who decided not just to grow fatteners but actually breed pigs to get “free” or cheaper piglets.

Once again I have heard a somewhat similar story from one of the veterinarians here in Lipa City, Batangas. Doc Jommel Lasay, who first assisted me in depopulating my ASF stricken backyard piggery last December 2020 and has since been conducting tests on the farm and eventually brought in sentinel piglets to find out if we have passed quarantine so that the barangay and the immediate area can be declared ASF free.

According to Doc Jommel, 41 backyard swine farmers that were affected by ASF and followed the government ASF protocol (to depopulate, disinfect and quarantine their facilities) were given replacement gilts instead of cash aid by Lipa City Mayor Eric Africa. Anyway you look at it, Mayor Africa’s approach is a unique and smart “investment” and assistance to backyard farmers who want to get back on their feet.

One high quality gilt or “Dumalaga” costs about P30,000. The initial outlay is high but the morale boost and hope it gives to a former hog raiser is six to 10 times greater than starting with a plain pig for fattening or cash that will soon be spent. Any experienced hog raiser will tell you that a young female pig or gilt has the potential to give birth six to eight times with a low of eight piglets to a high of 14. At an average of six deliveries or births and an average of 11 piglets per birth you get 66 piglets multiplied by P3,500 per head, a gilt can generate P231,000. That does not take into account producing other potential gilts directly or purchased from the income.

Mayor Africa can also adapt the “pa iwi” or “shared dispersal” practice where you assign one gilt to a recipient who cares for the pig, breeds it and then shares the produce with the original owner, often a 1/3 – 2/3 more for the farmer set up. The original owner then finds other recipients for his newly acquired piglets. This used to be a common practice in the provinces when materials were hard to come by and still continues in some places today.

Aside from helping in the post ASF recovery program of the government and the Department of Agriculture, Mayor Africa’s approach diffuses the already tense and unpopular situation regarding the DA’s indemnification program for victims of ASF. From 2020 to this year the DA has promised bankrupt backyard hog raisers that they would be receiving P5,000 for every head of pig culled, in order to prevent the further spread of ASF. The government also limited the indemnification to 20 heads, which is hardly anything for the average hog raiser.

In the last consultation, DA representatives promised that the indemnification payments would come out May 2021. Well, May 2021 is almost nearly half spent but the money is nowhere to be seen. In the meantime, if looks could kill and curses land, many local veterinary personnel as well as regional DA officials have continually been harassed, hated and accosted by desperate hog raisers in need of the cash to restart or move on. With the Gilts that Mayor Africa has given out, some of the anger has momentarily diffused.

Perhaps it is time for hog raisers to bring their case to the ARTA or Anti Red Tape Authority to hold the DA and the DBM accountable for the excessive delay and over promise to victims of ASF. The President said that dealing with government should not go beyond the 7-14-21-day periods; the delays for indemnification meanwhile has been dragging on from 120 days to 180 days. God help us if the DA offers us pigs instead of cash!

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If there are other mayors and barangay captains who are thinking of following Mayor Africa’s lead, one other option would be for a mayor or his or her town or city to put up their own “breeding stations” where they can produce the ideal gilts, etc. and distribute these in their area of jurisdiction. Having a legitimate breeding station drastically cuts the cost of having to buy breeding materials every time.

Quality gilts and breeders have always been a perennial problem of backyard farmers but for some strange reason the DA has not properly addressed this by setting up breeding stations and genetic banks in every province in the Philippines. During our BMeg Fiestahan caravans, ordinary folks would be jumping in joy as if they hit the Lotto whenever they won a gilt during our raffles. There simply isn’t much available out there and in most barangays pigs are so in-bred you can’t expect good performance and profit.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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