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DA may shrink culling zone for ASF, looks at rabbit meat as pork alternative

The Department of Agriculture is studying the possibility of decreasing the size of the culling zone from within one kilometer of farms infected by African swine fever (ASF) to within half a kilometer only as a pork shortage looms.

The department currently abides by the 1-7-10 protocol against ASF, which requires that:

  • within a one-kilometer radius from infected farms, quarantine checkpoints are set up at strategic locations to prevent live pigs and pork products from leaving the area, while pigs are culled;
  • within a seven-km radius from infected farms, the agencies surveil and test animals, and limit their movement; and
  • within a 10-km radius from infected farms, the agencies require mandatory disease reporting from farmers and hog raisers.

In an ambush interview at the International Farmers Summit on Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said he has asked government experts and the private sector to study the issue.

“Kasi ang data natin ay 13% lang yung may sakit e. Mas marami yung na-depopulate na walang sakit,” Dar said of the culled hogs.

As of January 13, 2020, 178,159 hogs or 1.7% of the total hog population in the country have been culled. Only 29,709 of them were sick.

“I have requested both our group and the private sector to study the possibility of reducing the 1-kilometer protocol where depopulation is being done to a half a kilometer—if there is merit of that, if there are experiences of other countries, or if there are studies that have been done,” he also said.

The move is meant to address a possible shortfall in the supply of pork in the country.

Just the day before Dar said that the Philippines has "enough" pork supply despite the recent outbreak of ASF in Davao Occidental.

At the same event, the Philippine Veterinary Drug Association warned that the worst-case scenario in the continued spread of ASF is the loss of 62% of the country's pigs, amounting to the loss of 1.1 million metric tons of dressed pork.

Dar said the DA has also provided financial assistance to hog raisers as part of the department’s recovery and repopulation plan.

“The bigger sector of the industry would be the commercial sector. Although they are only 35% of the group, if they can repopulate in a big way, why not,” Dar added.

The DA is also looking at commodities that can substitute for pork.

One of them, Dar said, is rabbit meat.

“Those are all options. We have talked with them na we are supportive of their industry. Kasi ang growth cycle noon ay mas lesser than other potential substitute. It will be cheaper. We are serious. All options are on the table. But poultry is number 1,” he explained.

Dar said he has eaten rabbit meat. “Parang manok din,” he said.

The DA is also set to impose suggested retail prices for pork and other agricultural products.

He also advised hog raisers to consolidate more as a group so they would not be taken advantage of by traders who buy cheap but sell high in the market.

“Dapat yung mga hog raisers, mas stronger as a group. Hindi yung kanya-kanya. Para mas leverage sila na makipag-discussion sa mga traders,” Dar added. — BM, GMA News