No pork price cap in Baguio; Repopulation program set to stabilize prices

Metro BLISTT

The Department of Agriculture – Cordillera Administrative Region (DACAR) said on Monday it will not recommend a price cap for meat products in Baguio City as it would force the meat vendors in the market to sell at a great loss.

The regional department is hopeful that the national hog repopulation program which is aimed at reviving the swine industry will help stabilize the prices of meat products in the country including Baguio City.

Significant results in the repopulation of hogs through this program could be observed in the last quarter of this year, the DA-CAR reported.

Danilo Daguio, DA-CAR Regional Technical Director for Operations, said that instead of imposing a price ceiling, the government should focus on restoring the sustainability of the meat supply. A surge of pork prices has been observed in the country since January of this year due to the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) which has significantly reduced the hog population in hog farms as well as community quarantines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the city’s slaughterhouse, there are only about 100-150 hogs slaughtered per day during the COVID-19 pandemic, a far cry from the 300- 400 hogs slaughtered per day prior to the health crisis. Leonor Verzola, DA-CAR Veterinarian, said the city’s prevailing prices of pork (lean meat and pork belly) in the market range from Php340 to 355.

The prices of pork in the city peaked in the first week of February at a range between Php360 and 380. Verzola said the slight decrease in the prices of pork which was observed in the city recently was due to the decline in retail experienced by the vendors.

The determination of pork prices in the market is highly dependent on supply and demand, Verzola stressed. The city council urged the DA-CAR to undertake necessary measures to stabilize the prices of meat products in the city.

Further, the council invited the Department of Trade and Industry and the city’s Local Price Coordinating Council in its next session to probe the monitoring of retail prices of processed and canned meat as well as menu prices in eateries and restaurants.

The National Repopulation Program
In an effort to revive the country’s swine industry, the DA has recently launched the national hog repopulation program alongside the “Bantay sa ASF Barangay” program with an earmarked fund amounting to Php29.6 billion. The said programs were piloted in Batangas City.

In CAR, Php15 million has been earmarked for the region’s repopulation program where each province except Apayao is allocated a certain amount. The national repopulation program is seen as the most viable measure to address the shortage of pork supply in the country while awaiting the development of ASF vaccines, DA-CAR Veterinary Leisley Deligen said.

Sufficiency level of meat products
The report of the DA-CAR showed that, as of February 8, 2021, the total swine mortality in the region is 22,246. Of the number, 4,972 pigs were culled as they showed clinical signs of ASF. Among the six CAR provinces, only Apayao and Abra have no reported cases of ASF. The region has a 28.90% sufficiency level of pork while beef is at 62.57% and poultry at 6.44%.  City Veterinarian Brigit Piok reported that roughly 90% of the city’s pork supply comes from other regions and that more or less 10% of the city’s supply comes from the locality, mostly from the municipalities of Sablan and Tuba.

According to the DA-CAR, the main sources of hogs at the moment are regions located in Visayas and Mindanao. The hogs are transported from the point of origin to Pangasinan stockyards, then pass through checkpoints in Benguet before reaching the city’s slaughterhouse.

Waiving of fees collected from traders
Aside from the increase in the pig production cost as reported by the DA-CAR, Piok informed the council that there are also various fees being collected from meat traders by the local government units in the transportation of livestock.

“The Bureau of Animal Industry has already done the inspection upon the arrival of hogs in Manila. The transportation of these hogs even comes with pertinent documents such as health certificates and travel papers,” Piok said. “I don’t know why the traders need to pay again an inspection fee when they reach Pangasinan, then they pay again when they pass through Benguet.”

Piok and the city council appealed to the DA-CAR to look into the matter to see if it is possible for the concerned LGUs to do away with the said fees.

Importation of pork from the global market
Daguio said that DA Secretary William Dar had recommended the importation of pork from the global market, a plan that was approved “in principle” by President Rodrigo Duterte just this February according to news reports. This will counter the soaring pork prices in the country, the DA-CAR affirmed. The regional department, however, is not so keen on importing pork from other countries as it could affect the livelihood of local hog raisers and meat traders since imported frozen meat products are relatively cheaper.

Restoring hog raising in the city
During the forum, the city council brought up the idea of temporarily allowing hog raising in the city to help augment the supply of pork on top of the approved plans of the national government. However, as stipulated in the Environment Code (Ordinance 18-2016), the city has a “No Backyard Piggery” policy. The operation of backyard piggeries is identified as one of the major pollutants in the city, contaminating the waterways and causing air and noise pollution at the same time.

The DA-CAR said it is in favor of allowing swine production in the city as long as it will be done in areas where “ the environment will not be sacrificed.” On her part, Piok said it is imperative to consult the City Health and Services Office and the City Planning and Development Office regarding the matter to ensure that any future action regarding hog raising in the city will not endanger people’s health and the environment.

The city council then requested the City Veterinary and Agriculture Office to study the feasibility of hog raising as a livelihood project in the city during this period where there is shortage of pork supply nationwide, subject to compliance with zoning and environmental laws.

Jordan G. Habbiling/ABN