A group of local meat processors and importers has warned that the proposed ban on pork meat imports from countries believed to have cases of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) would result in shortage of raw materials and increased prices of processed meat products.
Felix Tiukinhoy Jr., chairman of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI), said government control measures should not disturb import arrangements for meat and other raw materials which are not readily available from local sources.
“Filipino consumers depend very heavily on pork and pork products, and pushing food prices to unaffordable levels will create an unimaginable stress on our nutrition, purchasing capacity, and can precipitate political unrest,” Tiukinhoy said in a letter to Rep. Agapito Guanlao of Quezon City, chairman of the House of Representative Special Committee on Food Security.
The PAMPI official said his group has observed a decrease in the supply of piglets in the market and an unbelievable increase in the prices of live weight pigs to an average price of P122 per kilo, which are suggestive of upcoming shortages of pork supply.
PAMPI is against the proposal from local hog raisers to ban pork meat imports from countries affected by PED.
“We find it difficult to appreciate, if not embarrassing, to consider a proposed ban on pork meat from countries that are experiencing an outbreak of this corona virus when the Philippines itself is presently affected with PED,” the group said.
“We find it even more challenging to understand the proposal to ban importation of pork meat which does not host and cannot therefore transmit the virus in frozen pork,” it added.
PAMPI said the Philippine livestock industry has been exposed to and is familiar with PED, with an earlier outbreak recorded as early as 2006 affecting suckling pigs, which resulted in a very high mortality in that age group of hogs.
“There was then no clamor for banning pork importation as a way of preventing the spread of PED. Why propose an import ban now?” Tiukinhoy said.
Records show that since 2005, PED outbreaks traced to “Korean” strains have been affected the pig farming industries of East Asia, particularly in the Philippines, which made several imports of Korean pigs during the period, according to PAMPI.
PAMPI, however, said PED is not transmissible to humans and thus poses no danger to human health. The virus is most serious in neonatal piglets where morbidity and mortality can reach as high as 80 percent to 100 percent.
“PED is not an ‘OIE listed’ disease and is not internationally reportable, so no quarantines or movement restrictions are in place either internationally or interstate. International trade and commerce for pork cannot be involved in the restrictions in addressing PED,” Tiukinhoy said, referring to the World Organization for Animal Health, which uses the acronym OIE.
To protect local hogs already infected with PED, Tiukinhoy said natural immunity may be better influenced by introduction of maternal antibodies via colostrum from PED immune sows.
In 2012, the meat processing industry imported 394,526 metric tons or over P40 billion worth of raw materials, including pork (151,084 MT), chicken meat (134,768 MT), and a high volume of buffalo and beef.