GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 30 April) – While farm sales are at an all-time low and inventory is building up, swine producers are ready to supply pork to Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon.
South Cotabato Swine Producers Association (SOCOSPA) President Ramil Lim said in an interview, they have an inventory of at least 45,000 sows despite farms depopulating due to the threat of African Swine Fever that hit the country last year.
With the ongoing COVID-19 quarantine measures, farmers are heavily constrained in logistics and inventory continues to rise. Farmers are losing heavily due to drastic reduction in sales while production costs continue to skyrocket.
Lim said that SOCOSPA produces over 50,000 heads of 100-kilo hogs every month but only 10 percent of them are sold currently for the local markets in the region (Region 12 or SOCSKSARGEN area).
“The rest of our production, about 60 percent, are shipped to the Visayas, particularly in Cebu and Leyte,” he said.
He added they should also be allowed to have at least two convoys or helpers for live shipments.
“A live cargo ship takes at least 3 days to reach Manila. Our convoys are necessary to feed and keep our livestock washed, watered and healthy,” he explained.
He added pigs are known to be very sensitive to heat stress and can die if not given proper care during shipment.
SOCOSPA farmers are willing to immediately load live hogs into cargo ships bound for Metro Manila anytime.
“We are aware that Metro Manila market goers prefer newly slaughtered pork meat. We can supply that need. In fact, there exists 300 metric tons of frozen pork carcass shipped by SOCOSPA farmers to various storage facilities in Luzon right now ready for any buyer,” Lim said.
He also revealed that General Santos City still has more than 2,000 pork carcass or at least 160 metric tons stored in various storage facilities in the City.
He said they resorted to slaughtering their maturing stocks as production costs kept growing.
“But with cold storages in the city now fully booked, we are at a loss on where to dispose our livestock produce,” he rued.
SOCOSPA has been repeatedly asking for help and intervention from the government. The association is the largest producer of live hogs in Mindanao with four major farms having at least 15,000 sow levels combined. The biggest is Biotech Farms, owned by KCC Mall chain, which reportedly has a sow population of 6,000 heads. Each sow is capable of selling 1.2 pigs every month and a single hog reaches the market-size of 100-kilo weight in 5 months.
While local government units implement both ASF and COVID-19 quarantine protocols, farmers have not been able to transport their livestock smoothly since early first quarter this year despite repeated appeals to the Department of Agriculture.
Last week, SOCOSPA farmers were able to transport six truckloads of live hogs to Leyte only after exclusively chartering a ferry costing P150,000 for each truck, which is more than double the usual cost of delivery.
“We appeal to the National Government to advice LGUs that our livestock product be allowed unhampered travel. We need to keep steady supply of food so prices will also be steady especially in this time of crisis,” Lim said.
For the longest time, the Mindanao livestock industry had remained disease-free. However, early this year, the first case of ASF was reported in Davao Occidental, putting the entire Southern and Eastern Mindanao hog production in quarantine.
Despite the case, Region 12 has since been declared ASF-free. General Santos City and South Cotabato have been producing 20 percent of the livestock requirements of Metro Manila from the 1970s up to early 1980s until tuna producers overtook the position as top economic earner in General Santos City. (Edwin Espejo/for MindaNews)