ASF Philippines: How traders influence pork prices amid outbreaks

25-02 | |
ASF Philippines
Photo: Canva

As the fight against ASF continues, pig traders in the Philippines are putting salt in the wound. They are driving down farm gate prices by spreading misinformation about the severity of ASF. This way, they push small-holder farmers into selling their pigs at a loss. According to the Philippine News Agency, the government is intensifying efforts to keep the pig industry at its feet.

Recent ASF outbreaks

In a February 2024 interview, Jaymar Vilos, information officer of the Provincial Veterinary Office, said that only Ayungon town and Tanjay City still have reported cases of ASF. Recent data showed that Tanjay City has culled 40 animals and Ayungon has reported 190 deaths. Authorities say the prices of pork in Negros Oriental, particularly in the capital city continue to rise amid a low supply of live pigs.

Southern Leyte province

According to the Southern Leyte Provincial African Swine Fever (PASF) executive committee, the towns of Silago, Malitbog and Bontoc recently reported cases of ASF. In Silago town, 99 farmers were affected when 489 pigs contracted the disease, while Malitbog reported 48 affected farmers and 448 infected pigs.

Antique province

Reports show that most towns and villages affected by ASF hope to be declared free from the disease by February 2024, to allow farmers to resume their livelihood and recoup millions of losses. According to the Municipal Agriculture Officer (MAO) Rene Barte, the process now is to identify 5 pig farms in each of the 23 barangays hit by ASF for swabbing and sentinelling.

Occidental Mindoro province

Municipal veterinarian Nathaniel Descanzo said San Jose, Santa Cruz and Rizal towns have active ASF cases, and all efforts are geared towards keeping the disease from migrating beyond the 3 municipalities.

Bicol region

Lovella Guarin, spokesperson of the Department of Agriculture in Bicol said of the 72 towns and cities in the Bicol Region previously affected by the ASF, 52 were upgraded from “red” to “pink” as of January 15, 2024. Pink zones serve as a buffer, where ASF is not present but adjacent to an infected zone.

Traders driving down farm gate prices

In the province of Occidental Mindoro, pig farmers are appealing to government agencies to impose sanctions on pork traders and middlemen spreading disinformation about the severity of the ASF outbreak in the province to drive down farm gate prices.

Michael Madriaga, board of director and manager at the Occidental Mindoro Hog Raisers Agriculture Cooperative (OMHRACO), said that OMHRACO has formally requested the Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO) and Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to revoke the business licenses of pork traders participating in the disinformation campaign that is leading to “panic selling” because they are causing huge losses to the province’s pig industry.

“Even if ASF is already present in the province, we can still sell our production as long as we follow BAI rules, and tighten biosecurity in our respective piggeries,” he said.

Government efforts

In Romblon municipality, the government has completed the distribution of cash assistance to backyard pig raisers whose farms were subjected to compulsory “depopulation” as part of the government’s efforts to arrest the spread of ASF. Municipal Agriculturist Rexfort Famisaran recently said that on top of the cash paid by the municipal government, pig farmers stand to make even more money from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC).

“DSWD representatives are already making a list of farmers eligible to receive cash assistance, and a payout may materialize as early as February 2024,” he said.

On the other hand, while the PCIC is validating the claims of 1,752 crop farmers in Antique province who filed their notices of loss due to the El Niño phenomenon, pig farmers are no exception. In an interview, PCIC Antique head Clogene Galuego said they have paid over PHP12.230 million to 508 pig farmers in the four towns of Hamtic, San Jose de Buenavista, Sibalom and Belison, which were affected by ASF during the last quarter of 2023.

“The PCIC is set to release to the remaining 56 pig farmers the total amount of PHP1,376,600 in January 2024,” he said.

The INSPIRE programme

The Integrated National Swine Production Initiatives for Recovery and Expansion (INSPIRE) programme of the Department of Agriculture is accelerating the repopulation and recovery of the pig industry through calibrated repopulation and intensified production, establishment of breeder multiplier farms, intensified biosecurity and enhanced surveillance and expansion and modernization of semi-commercial and commercial farms through credit support.

In the Belison municipality of Antique province, the Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MPC) is a recent recipient of PHP10 million aid under the INSPIRE program. To support the repopulation program in Antique province, Salvador Estaris, Belison MPC chief executive officer said they would use the fund to construct a breeding facility with artificial insemination laboratory and to procure the initial 30 sows and one boar for breeding.

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Matthew Wedzerai Correspondent