Pork prices to remain high

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    Consumers have seen a steady rise in pork prices in December, driven by the holidays, the large casualties from the Asian swine fever (ASF) and the difficulty of bringing hogs to Luzon due to restrictions in certain local government units.

    Just into the second week of the year, prices of pork ham (kasim) hit P330 to P380 per kilogram (kg) and pork belly (liempo), P380 to P420 in Metro Manila public markets.
    That’s way above the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) suggested retail price of P260/kg for pork ham and P290/kg for pork belly.

    “Because of the still lingering ASF, it impacts on pork supply, especially in Luzon,” said William Medrano, Undersecretary for Livestock at the Department of Agriculture (DA).

    “Mindanao has a surplus so we are facilitating movement to Luzon, especially Metro Manila,” he said in a Tapatan press briefing. “That’s the reality, the supply is lacking in Luzon.”

    Medrano cited Philippine Statistics Authority figures of a 12.7- million hog inventory and losses of 1 million heads.

    The industry inventory is 14 million heads but 5 million haver been lost to the ASF. That leaves only 9 million hogs, Medrano said.

    The hog disease has been reported in more than 2,000 barangays in nearly 400 towns in 34 provinces.

    The hog industry suffered a 70 percent loss in Luzon so farmers have stopped production for fear that hogs will die of the ASF that continues to affect barangays despite cullings, Rosendo So, chairman of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, said in the same press briefing.

    Even with the low demand because of the high markups, prices will remain high because of the low stocks, he said, adding that “the number of pigs culled is bigger than those slaughtered for consumption.”

    Premium products such as liempo, tenderloin and pork loin – never cheap – is no longer easily affordable, said Jesus Cham, president of the Meat Importers and Traders Association.

    “That’s what we saw last December,” he said.

    “Until local prices go down, imported meat will follow too. This is expected,” he added.

    Now that the price of pork is high, nearly that of beef, Filipinos should take a second look at beef consumption, Medrano said.

    Even then, the DA is calibrating the repopulation of hog in Luzon, he said. It has already started in private commercial farms, hopefully adding to supply this year.

    He also pointed to the P2.5 billion budget to manage and control ASF in the next five years.

    About P500 million has been allocated to the repopulation project that will mostly benefit backyard swine raisers, Medrano said.

    Backyard hog raisers, on average, tend to 20 heads or less.

    The repopulation project includes feeds subsidy so that farmers don’t use swill or kitchen refuse fed to hogs, one of the major causes of ASF.

    Backyard producers will be linked to feed millers so cheaper affordable feeds are available to farmers, Medrano said.