February 14, 2023


ASF hampers pace of recovery of Philippines' hog production last year




The Philippines' hog production continued its recovery in 2023, but still at a rate slower than what industry players and government officials hoped for as threats posed by African swine fever (ASF) deter repopulation efforts.


Domestic hog output last year grew by 3.27% to 1.793 million metric tonnes – the highest in three years – from 1.737 million metric tonnes, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). The volume rose for the second consecutive year since production plunged to 1.696 million metric tonnes in 2021 after ASF decimated the country's pig population.


Despite the increase, hog production in 2023 was nowhere near the 2.25 million metric tonnes average output from 2016 to 2019, before local farms suffered from ASF.


Agriculture Undersecretary Deogracias Victor Savellano told The STAR that the government is struggling to ramp up its hog repopulation efforts due to the absence of an ASF vaccine and weak biosecurity of farms against the disease.


"We need the cooperation of the local government units to strengthen our efforts. This is not just a fight of the DA (Department of Agriculture) but of the whole government; our approach should be like what we did against COVID-19 because we are talking about our food security here," Savellano said.


He added the DA is spending at least ₱1 billion (US$18 million) for its hog repopulation programme this year. In addition, it will bankroll a new programme that will tap some 7,000 barangay officers to boost the department's manpower in monitoring ASF cases and educating farmers concerning the disease.


Nonetheless, Savellano said that he sees total hog production this year touching the 1.8-million metric tonnes mark.


National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc. president Chester Warren Tan said the threat of ASF is the main culprit for the slow production recovery by the hog industry.


"ASF continues to infect both repopulated backyard and commercial farms whose biosecurity defenses are inadequate. Even big integrated farms have unreported cases of ASF infections," Tan told The STAR. "The government's [repopulation] programme was unsuccessful in some regions due to poor implementation as some grant recipients were not swine farmers who are not familiar with biosecurity and thus were hit with ASF after repopulation."


Tan pointed out that the extended imposition of lower pork tariffs have also discouraged local farms to restart operations "due to stiff competition from cheap import prices."


Tan noted that farmers are also wary of increasing their output as demand for pork remains tepid due to "lower disposable income" by consumers.


"As a result, liveweight prices remain steady and backyard farmers experience low margins if not break-even most of the time and may not be worth the higher risk of raising pigs due to high feed cost and ASF infection," he said.


The ASF, a transboundary animal disease that does not transfer to humans, was first confirmed in the Philippines in 2019.


Since the first ASF case confirmed in the Philippines in 2019, local hog farms have been struggling to produce, with the total pig population as of January 1 falling to 9.6 million heads from over 12.5 million heads pre-ASF.


Bureau of Animal Industry monitoring showed that there are 80 barangays nationwide with active ASF cases as of January 19.


Since 2019, the BAI has confirmed ASF outbreaks in 5,187 barangays across 73 provinces and 17 regions.


- Philstar

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