SouthCot pork producers seek entry to Singapore markets

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/7 April) — Pork producers here and the neighboring areas are pushing for the revival of negotiations for the entry of local pork meat products to potential markets in Southeast Asia.

Dr. Emilio Escobillo Jr., chair of the South Cotabato Swine Producers Association (Socospa), said they have started initial discussions with top officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the possibility of reopening talks with Singapore to facilitate the entry of local pork meat products to its markets.

He said DA specifically asked their group to participate in the negotiations and initiate the necessary preparations on the ground.

“We’re now working on this and hopefully the negotiations will take off in the next few months,” he told MindaNews at the sidelines of the 23rd National Hog Convention here over the weekend.

DA initially forged a deal with Singapore in early 2007 for the shipment of fresh cuts and processed pork meat products to the area from the Makar port here.

The area was chosen by the national government to initiate the country’s pork exports since Mindanao had been certified free from the dreaded foot-and-mouth disease by the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) or World Organization for Animal Health.

DA had tapped two Mindanao firms — the Matutum Meat Packing Corp (MMPC) based in Polomolok town in South Cotabato and the Davao City-based Nenita Quality Foods Corp., to pilot the pork exports then.

MMPC, a sister company of Cebu-based Sunpride Foods, Inc. which produces Holiday corned beef and Sunpride canned goods, had invested around P200 million for a state-of-the-art processing plant in Polomolok town.

But the agreement eventually fell through without any single shipment making it to Singapore due to problems with the national government’s policies and the detection of the Ebola Reston virus in a hog farm in Luzon.

Escobillo said the shipment opportunity then was lost due to the “lack of well-defined national policies for pork exports.”

He said the government has not also separated Mindanao in terms of the reporting of biosecurity concerns or problems like animal disease outbreaks.

“We can make these shipments happen if the government can immediately address those problems. So I initially asked DA to give us some guaranty in terms of the required policies,” he said.

Escobillo said they want the pork shipments to Singapore to push through as it could help facilitate the entry of local pork meat products to other markets within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-countries.

He specifically cited areas within the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area or BIMP-EAGA.

Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region is presently the top pork producer in Mindanao and the second in the entire country.

The region comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

Data from the DA Region 12’s Veterinary Quarantine Services showed that the region produced a total of 124,366 heads of excess hogs that were valued at around P1.09 billion.

In terms of pork, the area produced around 12,347 metric tons last year that were valued at P1.97 billion.

About 28 percent of the area’s hog produce ended up at the MMPC plant, 26 percent to Metro Manila and 13 percent to Cebu. (MindaNews)