Hog Raisers Seek Total Pork Import Ban

PHILIPPINES - A party-list congressman representing the livestock industry on Wednesday said the spread of the influenza A(H1N1) virus and pork importation are bringing down the country's hog industry.
calendar icon 20 May 2009
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AGAP Rep. Nicanor Briones told ABS-CBN's morning show "Umagang Kay Ganda" that compared to the period January to April 2007, the importation of pigs increased by 334 per cent during the same period this year.

Mr Briones said that in the first three months of the year alone, the country already imported 48 million kilos of pork.

"Small-time hog raisers would incur losses," the partylist congressman said, adding that the hog industry loses P2,000 to P3,000 for each pig.

Mr Briones said the Department of Agriculture (DA) should at least ban the importation of pigs from countries affected by H1N1 virus.

DA Secretary Arthur Yap, however, said the government cannot just ban the importation of pork, but promised that he would do everything to protect the country's P150-billion hog industry.

"We can’t just ban the importation of pork without valid reasons. Other export products of the Philippines would be affected," Mr Yap said.

Mr Yap explained that countries that would be affected by an unreasonable hog import ban might retaliate. He said the countries might stop the importation of goods from the Philippines, which will greatly affect the country's export industry.

The agriculture secretary added that the H1N1 virus is not a valid reason to ban pork.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the deadly flu cannot be acquired by eating pork. It said the virus is airborne and is transmitted from human to human.

The WHO's declaration pushed the DA to lift import bans imposed on pork products from Mexico and the United States.

Mr Briones, however, cited Switzerland's total import ban of live hogs and pork products. "How come we can’t do the same?" Briones said.

Mr Yap, meanwhile, said that he would meet with the hog industry's stakeholders before acting on Briones's request.

"I love the [hog] industry, I will do everything to protect it," Mr Yap said. He added if the local industry needs help they could contact him.

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