Hog raisers whose businesses remain free from African Swine Free (ASF) are still at risk of contamination because of weak import inspections and rampant online selling of meat, Senator Imee Marcos has warned.
During a Senate hearing last week, Marcos said inspections were “practically non-existent,” after she drew an admission from officials of the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) that only 10% of meat imports was being inspected at the country’s points of entry and 90% at second-tier control areas.
“That violates Section 12 of the Food Safety Act of 2013, which says that inspections should be done at the first port of entry. No ACEA (agricultural commodity examination area) has a lab, we lack trained quarantine officers, nor is there a representative from the Department of Health, ” Marcos pointed out.
Marcos added that the online trade of meat products that undergo little or no inspection may also worsen the spread of ASF to distant hog-raising provinces like Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Bukidnon, South Cotabato, and General Santos, from which Metro Manila is sourcing pork to remedy its supply shortage.
To solve the problem, Marcos urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to immediately sit down with e-commerce platforms like Lazada an Shopee and figure out how to minimize, if not stop, the “rampant online selling of meat.”
“The DA should not pass on control responsibility to the local governments that are being forced to apprehend couriers and confiscate meat products at their borders,” Marcos added.
Marcos has been vocal against the DA’s recommendation to President Duterte that pork imports should be increased and their tariffs lowered to curb the supply shortage in the National Capital Region.
“The looming increase in the minimum access volume of pork and tariff reductions may just kill the local hog industry even before ASF can,” Marcos said.
The Senate has called on President Duterte to recall the DA recommendation that will allow an increase in the minimum access volume (MAV) of pork from about 54,000 metric tons to more than 400,000, and a decrease in tariffs from 30% to 5% for imports within the MAV and from 40% to 10% for imports outside the MAV.