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The African Swine Flu Problem: Another Challenge for the Government

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

courtesy of Philstar

A Pork Culture

Pork is one of the most important foods in the Philippines. For one, it is a main stay in Filipino cuisine being in everything from sisig to lechon. The Philippines is also both a major producer and consumer of pork ranking eighth and tenth in the world, respectively. In 2019, an estimated 12.71 million heads of pigs were produced in the Philippines, many of which grew in small piggeries. The number of pigs being grown was estimated to reach 16.7 million by 2025. However, in recent times, a new opponent is fast approaching and has the ability to wreak havoc if no action is taken against it.

African Swine Flu & Its Impact

According to PhilStar, more than 406, 899 pigs have been killed due to the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF), a disease that can be deadly to pigs. In the past few years, pork production has already been decreasing, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Foreign Agricultural Service believes that the situation will not improve, discouraging the investment in this sector. The scarce supplies have forced merchants to raise the price of pork goods. With the limited supply of pork, people have decided to switch to chicken, triggering the rise of chicken prices as well. Citizens are worried that they may not be able to afford their food for every day. The inflation rates during January rose to 4.2 percent, which goes past the government’s target.

Price Ceilings and Pork Holidays

In an attempt to solve the problem, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte issued a price ceiling for 60 days. A price ceiling is a designated maximum price for a certain product a seller is allowed to charge. The vendors, however, state that the price ceiling is too low for them to be able to make a profit, rendering this act unhelpful. This has led to a “pork holiday,” where many vendors stop selling pork and chicken and causing a supply shortage, not to mention the pandemic that has already caused our economy to fall. President Duterte approved of raising pork supplies from imports to combat the scarce quantities of pork. CNN News reports that pork importations for the year 2021 may reach up to 600 million kilograms and this may hinder the local businesses. William Dar, the Agriculture Secretary, claims that the vendors are the ones at fault for manipulating the prices; however, ProPork’s Nicanor Briones argues that the Department of Agriculture is to blame for being unable to solve the ASF problem in the past.

(increase in pork imports)

During 2019, Rappler reported that the World Animal Protection (WAP) was not satisfied with the actions of the government. The government gave unclear guidelines and refused to disclose any further information about the outbreak, forcing local governments to provide a solution themselves. This led to farmers throwing away the dead bodies of infected pigs into places like rivers, which further spread the virus. The current decision to implement price ceilings was not the best one, and according to Investopedia, price ceilings make goods more affordable to consumers, but causes long-term shortages, extra charges, and lower quality of products. Economists also view this as “inefficient” because it creates large losses for the economy. This course of action from the government can lead to the country’s economic situation to worsen as it already is suffering from the pandemic. Shipment security and safety is also in question, as sources say that the ASF was found in smuggled pigs.

History Repeats Itself

Many incidents, including this, has shown the government to be uncoordinated, especially in the midst of the pandemic. Citizens have shown signs of doubt on whether or not the government’s priority is to revive the economy and solve the pandemic problem. The government may be imposing new protocols and bills, but what good do they do? Citizens still struggle economically, and the pandemic problem is still not solved. They are unable to afford pork to eat for their daily meals, as the minimum wage per day is 537 pesos and the price of a kilogram of local pork can range from 300 to 400 pesos. Almost 75 percent of the salary is already spent in just buying pork, and this is not yet considering the electric bills, water bills transportation costs, rent and other daily necessities of an average citizen. It is surprising that the government has allowed the situation to worsen to a point that ordinary people are going through hardships just to afford daily and basic necessities. Imported pork for around 270 pesos is more appealing to people in comparison to local pork prices, leading people to support imported goods rather than the local vendors. This can cause people to lose jobs and businesses to close down. The current state of the government is incapable of properly leading the country during crisis. It has not improved from the past and is still with inconsistent and unclear announcements and guidelines which further increase the debt of the country. Officials themselves show a horrible example of following the imposed protocols. With our current situation, can people still entrust their well-being to the government?

Feasible Solutions

Using imported pork and price caps only serve as a temporary and inefficient solutions to the whole problem. The government should instead tighten the security of pork shipments. Thirty million illegally smuggled pigs, that were suspected with having the ASF virus, were found last year. Thorough investigation and pork testing also needs to be imposed to avoid the further spread of the virus. The ongoing development of vaccines for pigs to combat the ASF virus can also be seen as a promising solution. The country is already testing the vaccine of Zoetiz in a few pig farms and should further support the research and development of the vaccine. Financial aid, particularly lowering taxes and compensation for the infected swine should also be given to pig owners to encourage them to continue raising pigs. The government has already given financial aid in the past; however, it is insufficient to meet the needs of local pork vendors. Hog raisers themselves have asked for transportations subsidy, which they have yet to receive from the Department of Agriculture. The financial aid will help combat the rapidly declining sales of local pork vendors across the country. The authorities should consider how efficient and effective the solutions will be as the current solutions they have imposed may possibly worsen the situation. The government should do what is most suited and best for the citizens and the country.



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