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More meat inspection needed, not hog-farmer subsidies — SINAG

THE Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) said the government needs to set up more meat inspection facilities, rather than the insurance subsidies it is offering to help compensate farmers for losses incurred as a result of African Swine Fever (ASF).

In a mobile phone message, SINAG Executive Director Jayson H. Cainglet said insurance does nothing to keep ASF from spreading, but testing meat imports for contamination will keep the disease from entering the Philippines.

“We would rather have the DA (Department of Agriculture) work double time in setting up the planned border facilities, which should be established at three to five ports at minimum,” Mr. Cainglet said.

“Without 100% inspection and testing, it is hard for hog raisers, especially backyard raisers, since the risk of being affected by ASF remains the same, or even higher due to pork imports,” he added.

In a statement Thursday, the DA said the board of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) approved on Feb. 24 a compensation plan for insured farmers whose hogs were culled, raising the payout to 100% of the total sum insured.

“Standard insurance industry policy does not (cover) government-ordered disposal of stocks when epidemics occur among the compensable risks, while indemnity payments are normally pegged at a maximum of 60% of total sum insured (TSI),” the DA said.

According to the DA, the board decision may lead to the restocking of the hog population, raising the animal numbers by more than 10 million.

“The stock to be insured will be a mix of fatteners and breeders,” the DA said.

Currently, the DA said backyard hog raisers receive free insurance as long as they are listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture. They will be covered by the relaxed conditions on indemnity payment and culling or slaughter.

The PCIC board also ordered an increase in the number of backyard hog raisers to be given insurance cover.

The PCIC said it will require commercial and backyard raisers to adhere to biosafety protocols such as cleaning and disinfection. They will also be trained in biosafety measures.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said during a Senate Committee hearing Monday that the DA will pay for 50% of the premiums for five million hogs, including animals for breeding and fattening.

Mr. Dar said insurance cover for a fattener hog is P10,000 per head, with a premium of 2.25%, while cover for a breeder hog is P14,500 and a 4% premium, adding that the total premium cost will be at P1.48 billion.

“We will secure an additional P740 million to subsidize 50% for the insurance of the commercial hog raisers. The insurance will be given by the PCIC,” Mr. Dar said.

Bureau of Animal Industry Director Reildrin G. Morales said in a mobile phone message that the bureau is fast-tracking the construction of inspection facilities.

“There is a concept design. We are in the process of creating the building plan,” Mr. Morales said.

“It is targeted for construction this year. Agencies involved have been meeting for the process flow or protocol once established,” he added.

In previous statements, the DA said it plans to establish the first meat inspection facility or agricultural commodity examination area (ACEA) worth P521.57 million at the Manila International Container Terminal.

Other ACEAs are also planned for the Cebu International Airport and the Ports of Batangas, Subic, and Davao.

SINAG’s Mr. Cainglet said inspection facilities will be crucial to protecting hog raisers in the wake of plans to increase pork imports via an increase in the minimum access volume (MAV) quota.

“The best insurance that the DA can give to the industry is to not increase the MAV allocation and to withdraw its petition to the Tariff Commission to bring down the tariffs imposed on pork and rice,” Mr. Cainglet said.

The MAV is an import quota within which inbound shipments are charged a 30% tariff. Once the quota is exceeded, the tariffs rise to 40%.

The DA has proposed to increase the MAV for pork imports to 404,210 metric tons (MT), from 54,000 MT. The proposal is awaiting the approval of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The DA has also asked the Tariff Commission for a 12-month reduction in the tariffs of pork and rice imports.

Edwin G. Chen, president of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines, Inc., said he welcomes more insurance cover for the hog industry, but the payout process needs to be eased.

“It is hard to claim insurance. I hope the DA changes the terms and conditions of the policy,” Mr. Chen said in a mobile phone message.

“Commercial and backyard farms hit by ASF still have loans to suppliers and they did not receive any indemnification from the government,” he added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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