Protecting PHL hog industry from ASF

Meat products are becoming more expensive, according to the latest United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization report. The FAO Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of a basket of commonly traded food commodities, averaged 154.2 points in June, higher than last year’s figure by 23.1 percent. Aside from meat products, cereals and dairy products recorded increases on an annual basis.

Last month, FAO said the meat price index set a new record high, averaging 124.7 points, up 1.79 percent from May and by 12.7 percent from June 2021. FAO noted that world prices across all types increased, including pork. Among the meat products in the index, FAO said poultry meat rose sharply and reached an all-time high due to tight global supply conditions created by the war in Ukraine and bird flu outbreaks.

A few days before FAO released its report, Beijing announced that it has embarked on a campaign to rein in the market for pork. A Bloomberg report indicated that hog futures in Dalian have risen to their strongest in a year, while wholesale meat prices are at a six-month high. China’s top economic planner said they are studying selling pork from state reserves to prevent prices from rising too quickly (See, “China’s reprieve from global inflation threatened by pork,” in the BusinessMirror, July 6, 2022).

These developments do not bode well for countries that import meat products to plug their domestic supply shortfall, like the Philippines. The country had to lean on foreign producers for pork supply after local hog farms were ravaged by African swine fever (ASF). The devastation drastically reduced the supply of hogs in the country, prompting economic managers to raise the volume of imported pork the government will allow to enter the Philippines at lower tariffs.

Unfortunately, the disease has not yet been eliminated and some areas in the country continue to see sporadic outbreaks. The threat of ASF continues to discourage some hog raisers from restocking their farms (See, “Report: Pork output likely to stay flat this year,” in the BusinessMirror, June 20, 2022). The United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service in Manila (USDA-FAS Manila) said in a report that local pork producers are still awaiting developments related to a vaccine against the fatal hog disease.

USDA-FAS Manila said Philippine pork production this year will stay flat at 1 million metric tons despite the government’s efforts to encourage repopulation. Tepid pork output will cause the Philippines to increase pork imports to 400,000 metric tons, from the previous forecast of 375,000 MT. However, this will not guarantee that prices will go down, particularly with the threat of fresh outbreaks in major hog-producing areas.

It would do well for the national government and local government units to continue to remain vigilant against the threat of ASF. There’s a need to ensure that measures are in place to immediately stop the disease on its tracks. Efforts to find a vaccine and other related initiatives, such as the creation of test kits, must likewise be fast-tracked.

To protect our hog industry, those responsible for guarding our borders need to be vigilant to prevent smuggled farm goods from entering the country as these could carry the virus that causes the fatal hog disease.

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