FOR so long, the problem has been pork barrel, officially known as development assistance funds which are being used by congressmen for projects they individually and personally identified. These funds are popularly known as “pork.”
But this time, real pork as in the meat of pigs is the problem. And it took a foreign-sounding name for a porcine disease to wreak havoc on the meat industry in the country.
It’s called African Swine Fever. It renders the pig inactive and lose its appetite for food. It definitely means death for the victim, and huge losses for those in the business of swine raising, whether small backyard operation or big, corporate farms.
The ban on importation of pork and pork products especially from countries identified as contaminated with African Swine Fever has been imposed by the Department of Agriculture. Even local government units are monitoring the movement of slaughtered pigs, with key highways dotted with inspection booths and teams from the Bureau of Animal Industry and provincial and city or municipal veterinarians.
With the coming Christmas season and the great demand for ham, bacon and lechon for the holiday feasts, the problem of supply of pork is further exacerbated. The issue now has become whether to import pork and pig skin, etc. or to source these from local producers.
The argument has further divided two key groups in the industry – the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (Pampi) and the Samahan ng Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag).
Pampi, the largest group of meat processors, has decided to stop the purchase of local pork to contain the spread of ASF virus, a rather strong move that has drawn criticism from meat producers. In a statement, Pampi said it had asked members to stop buying local pork until hog producers are able to assure government authorities and the consuming public that local pork is ASF-free.
Sina described Pampi’s move as “pure bluff” and just an empty threat, adding “they have never bought from us in the first place.”
Sinag is composed of groups of rice, corn and vegetable farmers and traders; pork, livestock and poultry producers; aqua-venture groups and fertilizer and pesticide supplies from across the country.
As the two groups fight over industry policies, Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s only action is to suspend the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) permits for pork imports and to cancel all applications for SPS.
Secretary Dar cannot escape responsibility in the continuing problem of African Swine Fever, which has become more serious under his watch.