The Department of Agriculture (DA) said the Philippines would import pork to meet the country’s growing demand as it anticipates a tight supply of the meat.
The DA cited multiple holidays and festivities during the “ber” months–September, October, November and December.
It also pointed to the confirmed growing cases of African Swine Fever (ASF) in South Africa, Europe and Russia that has reached several provinces in China.
According to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, the importation will be made “as soon as possible” because the “ber” months would see supplies contract, consequently resulting in higher prices.
September is generally regarded as the start of the Philippines’ extended Christmas season, which ends in early January.
Pork products, particularly ham, are among the most consumed during those four months.
Piñol said the country will only allow the entry of pork from countries that are not affected by the ASF and Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), which already hit China earlier this month.
He added that while the DA is considering importation as its initial solution to the expected tight pork supply, the agency will protect the local hog industry via expansion of production throughout the country.
“We’re seeing a tight supply [of pork] so we would like to encourage our local hog raisers to produce more and we will have that by establishing municipal feeding [facilities] which will be supported by the DA,” Piñol told reporters in an interview on Friday.
“We have already established two on Negros island and we’re putting up one more in North Cotabato and other areas,” he said.
Earlier this month, the DA announced its plan to import up to 10,000 metric tons (MT) of pork to stabilize supply and price of the commodity ahead of the holiday season.
Piñol said the DA will submit its plan to the Office of the President after the stakeholders are consulted.
Importing pork would only begin once the President and Congress approved it, he said.
It takes 40 days before imported meat enters the country.
The DA has imposed a temporary ban on the importation of domestic and wild pigs from African Swine Fever (ASF)-affected countries including Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and China.
In a statement over the weekend, the DA’s Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) cited confirmed outbreaks of ASF in four provinces in China, with the first case having been reported on August 3 in Liaoning province.
Despite the control measures implemented, the disease has spread to three provinces in less than a month after the initial outbreak.
Based on Memorandum Order 23 issued on August 30, the Philippines will not allow the entry of domestic and wild pigs and their products including pork meat and semen from ASF-affected countries.
In a separate order, the DA also prohibited the use of catering food wastes/leftovers from international and domestic airports and seaports that are used for swill feeding throughout the country.
With the ban in place, the DA suspended the processing and evaluation of applications for and the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances covering the affected commodities.
All meat products brought in by arriving passengers from the stated countries will also be confiscated, according to the department.
“All veterinary quarantine personnel in our international airports and seaports have been alerted to prevent the entry of the disease,” the BAI said.
It described ASF as a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease of domestic and wild pigs of all ages.
The disease is characterized by high fever, loss of appetite, hemorrhages in the skin and internal organs and death, which follows between 2-10 days on the average.
Mortality can be as high as 100 percent.
The disease is listed as notifiable disease in the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code and must be reported to the OIE World Animal Health Information System once detected.
Although not considered a zoonotic disease, swine raisers are encouraged to strengthen and strictly implement farm biosecurity measures.
“The public is enjoined to support the government’s efforts by reporting to veterinary authorities any unusual pig mortalities, pork smuggling activities or meat items handcarried by travellers from affected countries,” the BAI said.
The Philippine swine industry is one of the biggest contributors to the country’s agriculture growth, posting over 16 percent increase in gross earnings, owing to increasing demand for pork and production expansion.
As of July 1, the country’s total swine inventory was estimated at 12.78 million.
The Philippines ranked eighth in the world in terms of pork volume production and number of breeding sows.
“Historically, the country is free from African Swine Fever [ASF]. Thus, incursion of the disease in the Philippines will result in great economic loss due to direct and indirect damages to the industry,” the BAI said.