Freeman Cebu Business

Meat importation drops 18.9% in October

Ehda M. Dagooc - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  Meat importation declined to 95.979 million kilos, down by 18.9 percent as of October 2023 following the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) aggressive fight against illegal trade along with a rigorous program for increased production.

According to DA-Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) cumulative meat imports from January to October this year declined by 9.7 percent to 1.019 billion kilos, from 1.128 billion kilos in the same period in 2022.

DA Undersecretary Deogracias Victor B. Savellano attributed the sustained downtrend in meat importation to the government's thrust to raise local production. DA has also been collaborating with different government agencies in fighting illegal trade as this is the same marching order received by DA Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel from President Ferdinand R. Marcos.

"Our mandate is to eliminate illegal meat importation, smuggling, hoarding, price manipulation, and anything that distorts prices in the market," said Savellano in a statement adding that the department is also looking at raising the production by five times (in five years).

“With enough volume, we hope to make food affordable for Filipinos.  We want producers, especially small-scale farmers, to make money,” he added.

For beef, importation dropped 22.1 percent to 13.963 million kilos in October.  Buffalo meat importation reached only 1.987 million kilos, down by 42.5 percent from 4.676 million kilos in the same period last year.

Pork which takes up the biggest share among meat imports decreased by 26.35 percent to 45.604 million this year from 61.927 million kilos in October 2022.

Chicken importation, however, increased slightly by 1.28 percent to 34.252 million kilos from 33.817 million kilos in 2022.

To raise local production, an immediate program of DA is to control the infestation of African swine flu (ASF) and avian influenza (AI) while awaiting approval for vaccine commercialization.

"There are problems in the availability of vaccines for ASF and AI that are now being solved so that we can protect the population of hogs and chicken.  We will also intensify research on vaccines so we can improve their availability," noted Savellano.

DA is raising its target on the use of artificial insemination to raise the genetic quality of animals.

"We are raising our target on the use of artificial insemination by 50 percent from the previous 30 percent. We are improving the availability of high-quality semen to farmers under our breeding program to raise our animal and meat production," he added.

DA is also embarking on long-term programs to raise local animal and meat production.  Investments are being made in infrastructure development including farm-to-market roads and transportation networks, cold storage facilities, and meat processing plants that can help reduce post-harvest losses. Food safety standards such as Good Agricultural Practice, Good Manufacturing Practice, and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point are being complied with.

DA also announced that it will explore the development of high-value meat products that have untapped markets. It will expand sources of meat importation that can offer good quality meat and competitive prices while curbing smuggling and illegal trade.

It is now setting up a Central Information Technology hub as part of a program to register all legitimate livestock farmers under a National Livestock Library. This will legitimatize contributors and beneficiaries of the government's livestock program.

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