THE Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (Pampi) on Thursday lamented that the African swine fever (ASF) also threatens the country’s P300-billion meat processing industry.
The group said pork supply had become scarce and sought the help of President Rodrigo Duterte.
It also urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to release guidelines that the industry could follow to address public misconception on pork meat consumption.
“We are in constant communication with the DA and they promised us last week that they will give us certain guidelines on how we can help in the prevention of the spread of ASF because we also want to do our part. But, as of now, they haven’t done anything for our meat processing industry,” Jerome Ong, Pampi vice president, told The Manila Times in a phone interview.
“We support all the actions done by the DA so far, but we want to remind them not to forget the meat processing industry because this will greatly affect our consumers,” he added.
Ong lamented that local government units have implemented measures on their own, which could “actually be consolidated and be covered in the guidelines that would come from the DA.”
He warned that the meat processing sector might be forced to reduce its production if the government would ban pork importation from all countries.
“There is no logic in suspending all pork imports. We believe it is not fair and not science-based. We buy only from countries, which are not affected by the ASF,” Ong said.
The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) earlier urged the DA to suspend the importation of pork meat and processed pork, saying imported meat was behind the entry of the highly contagious swine fever virus.
Pampi, however, belied this, stressing that “uncontrolled swill feeding” was behind the spread of the hog disease.
The group added that local producers had not been supplying them meat for products such as hotdogs, tocino, ham and longaniza, thus the need to rely on importation.
“They never support us. We keep on asking them to supply our requirements, but they never did. What we buy from abroad are cuts of pork that we cannot get locally,” Ong said.
Sinag Executive Director Jayson Cainglet, however, belied this.
“That is not true. We had meetings with them, asking their specifications. N’ung ready na kami to supply, pabago-bago na ang hinihingi. Ayaw lang talaga (When we were ready, they kept on changing their demand. They do not want to get their supply from us),” he told The Manila Times.
“Kung talagang tutulong sila (If they really want to help), they should invest locally,” Cainglet added.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Thursday renewed his appeal to the public to refrain from spreading misleading stories and reports that tend to create panic among pork consumers.
He clarified that the 7,416 culled pigs translated to merely 0.0029 percent, or three deaths for every 1,000 pigs. These cases represent a miniscule six deaths for every 10,000 pigs of the country’s total swine population, which stood at 12.7 million as of July 2019.
The Agriculture chief gave assurances that the DA, other government agencies and the private sector were doing their utmost to effectively manage, control, and contain the threat of ASF.
The Department of Trade and Industry also on Thursday assured the public that raw pork with certifications from the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) and processed pork products from trusted brands are safe to consume and should not be banned in supermarkets and wet markets.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said pork meat brands found in supermarkets and groceries certified by the Food and Drug Administration were produced by Pampi.
“These only use raw materials certified by the Veterinary Quarantine Certification by NMIS. These meat products like canned goods and hotdogs are cooked. Therefore, these products are safe to consume,” Lopez said.
He said vendors complained that ASF scare had affected pork demand.
Lopez urged consumers, who shop in wet markets, to ask vendors to present their NMIS certificates.
“These certificates are proof that these pork products have been tested and found free of ASF,” he said.
With a reports from LEA GONZALES