ASF Task Force lifts ban on frozen, processed pork

With no more deaths from African Swine Fever (ASF) recorded in Catanduanes in the last three months, the Provincial ASF Task Force has lifted the ban on pork and processed pork products.

The temporary ban on the entry of live pigs, however, remains until after the province is released from the quarantine imposed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) or is reclassified from red (infected) zone to pink (buffer) zone.

In its meeting at the capitol last Friday, July 2, 2021, the task force headed by Governor Joseph Cua approved the partial lifting of the ban due to the limited supply of hogs in the island.

Only pork and pork products covered by a Certificate of Meat Inspection from the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) and a shipping permit issued by the local veterinarian or DA veterinary quarantine officers of the place where the animal that is the subject of shipment originated.

The chief executive stated that companied such as San Miguel Corporation or Magnolia will be required to provide the documents prior to shipping pork and pork products to the island.

Also to be allowed in without the necessary documents are “lechon” and pork products of five kilos and below which are for personal consumption and brought in by passengers, who must present a proof of purchase.

It was disclosed in recent months that the price of local “lechon” had risen to as high as P12,000 each, with the cheaper roasted pig from Tabaco City not accepted on board island-bound ferries due to the ban.

The DA representative in the task force, however, urged stricter checkpoint control at the ports as it wants unaffected pigs on the island to be protected from ASF.

According to provincial veterinarian Dr. Jane Rubio, the ASF outbreak led to the death or depopulation of 62 percent of the existing hog population, with only 6,244 heads counted in a March 2021 swine inventory.

As a result of the dearth in supply, the cost of pork in the market has risen to as much as P370 per kilo.

While the DA has imposed a price control on pork and set P280 per kilo as the ceiling price in Catanduanes, local government units have not implemented the directive.

Based on guidelines on the swine repopulation, an area previously infected by ASF should be released first from quarantine through a series of laboratory screenings or tests on sentinel animals to be distributed by DA in infected barangays and monitored over 40 days.

The pigpens will have to be cleaned and disinfected in 30 days, followed by bioassay or environmental sampling of water and soil in another 20 days.

The fecal or blood samples taken from sentinel pigs weekly should test negative for ASF virus twice before the DA decides on the lifting of the quarantine or zone reclassification.

PBM Lorenzo Templonuevo Jr., who chairs the SP Committee on Agriculture, suggested that the limited PVO personnel be assisted by LGU agriculture workers in conducting the tests in different barangays.

He disclosed that some hog raisers have already began selling or buying piglets for backyard pigpens.

This prompted the governor to ask the PVO and DA to include such pigs in existing farms in the sentinel monitoring.

The PASTF meeting came nearly a month after Cua issued Memorandum Order No. 150 to local chief executives on the strict implementation of the Bantay ASF sa Barangay program, which mandates trained and deputized barangay biosecurity officers in monitoring the health of swine in the barangays and in the immediate reporting of any suspicious death or disease outbreak.

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