Bukidnon chamber to DA: import cattle direct to Mindanao, not via Luzon

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/29 June) – Ship directly to Mindanao, not via Luzon, if you want to import cattle for Mindanao farmers, the Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc.(BKCCII) asked the Department of Agriculture following reports the National Dairy Authority plans to import 2,000 heads from New Zealand.

Roderico Bioco, BKCCII president, told MindaNews Saturday that the chamber supports the development of the dairy industry but “we don’t agree with the planned quarantine protocol” in Bulacan.

In a letter addressed to the provincial government seeking support for their position, Bioco said the transport of cattle to Mindanao from Bulacan “poses serious bio-security concerns and unnecessary risk.”

He said they learned that the cattle, of the Freisian-Sahiwal heifers breed, will be quarantined for at least 30 days in Bulacan prior to its shipment to the other parts of the country, including Mindanao and eventually to some recipients in Bukidnon.

“The movement of cattle from ‘livestock disease epicenter Bulacan’ to Mindanao poses serious bio-security concerns and unnecessary risk,” Bioco said in his letter.

Bioco clarified that even as Luzon has been declared lately by the Paris-based Organization Internationale de Epizooties (OIE) as foot and mouth disease-free (FMD-free), “the movement of livestock from Luzon to Mindanao should still be avoided.”

He explained that cattle when under extreme stress “can be a carrier” of diseases. He said “highly epidemic” diseases such as PED (porcine epidemic diarrhea) and PRRS (porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome) commonly hit Bulacan but are rare or non-existent in Mindanao.

“It is therefore more prudent for us in Bukidnon and in Mindanao in general to compel the Department of Agriculture to stop the plan of NDA to ship dairy animals from Luzon and Mindanao,” he said.

He suggested for DA to devise a program of importing the animals directly to Mindanao first and to undertake the quarantine protocols in Mindanao before its dispersal.

Bukidnon, he said, has the potential to become the dairy capital of the country given its cool climate suitable for high-milk producing temperate breeds, low disease incidence, and “rich soil to support feed requirements.”

The province, he said, can accommodate not just a large milk production base but also “a breeding base for dairy animals to be distributed to other parts of the country.”

The Philippines imports more than 99 percent of its dairy requirements with value of more than US$ 850 million.

Bioco said a large part of the demand for dairy products, particularly pasteurized milk, can be produced locally. But he added that support from government is still important to create a critical mass of dairy cow population to sustain modern dairy processing facilities with economic scale.

According to data from the Dairy Confederation of the Philippines, dairy products comprise the second largest agricultural importation, next only to rice.

Based on the Dairycon data, the Philippines imports 1.6 billion liters of milk annually, equivalent to US$712 million or P125 billion from 138 importers, traders and processors.

The inadequate number of dairy animals, it added, is the biggest hindrance to Philippine dairy development.

As of 2009, out of the country’s 34,093 dairy animals only 15,891 are lactating.

The industry’s response was dairy cattle importation to keep steady the growth of the local dairy industry.  From 1984 to 2009, the Philippines imported a total of 7,925 tropical cross-bred cattle heads, almost doubling its herd size in 1984 of 9, 675.

The importation, however, was not enough to significantly expand local milk production. One problem is the high cost of importing a cattle head at P130,000.

Another problem was the scarcity of supply of imported cattle.

Citing a study by the US Department of Agriculture in aid of the Philippine dairy industry, Bukidnon was identified as the “best environment” for dairy cattle because the cross bred stock is suited to cool climate. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)