Real pork problems

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What could be worse: pork you can’t eat or pork you shouldn’t eat?

Although the African swine fever (ASF) is said to have been contained in Luzon, paranoia remains about that most beloved meat by Filipinos.

Some may forge t about it — forget their names, even! — once a piping hot, perfectly cooked plate of crispy pata is laid out in front of them, but the fact remains that the pig population in the world has been massively depleted by this disease.

In Luzon, some 7,000 pigs were culled to prevent an outbreak. These outbreaks reported in different parts of Asia, including China which carries the bulk of the world pig population, have caused worries over food supply, contamination and consumer inflation.

In the Philippines, a temporary ban on all pork products coming from Luzon had been imposed in the Visayas and Mindanao regions to prevent further spread of the swine disease.
ASF is deadly to pigs but not harmful to humans. The problem is it has no cure and no vaccine for the survival of pigs.

Thus, its spread can cripple the world’s hog industries as well as related agricultural suppliers like feeds.

In other words, no amount of pork barrel can save the pork if this problem is not contained.

Pork accounts for 60 percent of meat consumption in the Philippines, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA). We are also the world’s “eighth biggest pork producer by volume, with (the) swine industry estimated at P260 billion.”

This pork problem is far more serious than avoiding that plate of sisig in front of you.

The Davao pork ban imposed recently, for instance, covers the “entry of swine, pork, pork-related products and pork by-products (edible and non-edible), whether raw, processed or cooked, including but not limited to frozen boar semen from the entire island of Luzon and other ASF-affected areas.”

The city is also planning to inform food places to stop giving swill (leftover food scraps) for now as it can spread the disease in hogs.

Hereabouts, the reported disposal of dead pigs in rivers in Marikina and Quezon City had also caused an outcry over water contamination.

Clearly, some public advisories are needed to guide backyard hog raisers on the safest steps to handle the situation, as well as the public on how to prevent a further spread of the virus. Ignorance, sometimes, can kill.

What the Davao City Council had undertaken recently deserves attention — quick and decisive action can spell the difference between life and death. Denials can prolong problems and even complicate them to the point of no return.

The city under Mayor Sara Duterte had quickly created a task force covering related segments of the problem as a way to protect the city’s swine industry.

In a report from the said city, it was revealed that Acting Mayor Sebastian Duterte had indicated “a need to create a body that would look into the formulation of appropriate policies and implementation of programs to protect the public and the swine industry from the threats of ASF in the city.”

So, if the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) says ASF has reached outbreak levels in some parts of the country, immediate response from Agriculture Secretary William Dar should be as straightforward as possible, supported with facts and figures to either assure or rally people to action.

This is necessary considering how public trust has been unwieldy. Consumers had been conditioned by incidents long before the advent of ASF, like the “double dead pork” or botcha issue, to trust pork suppliers to have their health and well-being in mind.

Also, a clear statement on government action should be made, just as leaderships elsewhere are doing. The swine infection is a crisis — and crises cannot be dismissed with lightweight assurances.

While the temporary ban on pigs and pig-related products from China, Russia and a number of European countries had been imposed in the country, our DA should also be in step with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations agency spearheading an international effort to control the deadly virus.

By this weekend, a regional action plan is hoped to have been formulated after a FAO-sponsored meeting with Asia-Pacific leaders.

Pork is safe to eat, the DA assures. (Just cook it well, warns the Health Department).

The outbreak has been contained, they have even declared.

But much work remains to be done, including the prevention of smuggling of meat products, continued hog-raising methods that may be detrimental to the pig population, as well as abuse of pork pricing by opportunistic sellers.

After all, non-pork eaters and dieters notwithstanding, pork still accounts for 60 percent of the Filipinos’ meat consumption!

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