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US eyes aid as DA rejects pig death toll

05:08 AM September 20, 2019

WASHINGTON—The Philippines may be the next country after Vietnam to receive financial aid from the United States for measures to deal with African swine fever (ASF).

US National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) director for international affairs Maria Zieba said the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is looking to implement in the Philippines a program it recently began with Vietnam.

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Just two weeks ago, the US pork industry received a $1.7-million grant from USDA that would be used to fund a multiphase ASF-related project in Vietnam.

It’s unclear whether the Philippines would receive the same amount of grant as Vietnam from the USDA, but Zieba said it would likely depend on the impact of the disease and would be patterned by the effectiveness of the Vietnam project.

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“We are in the process of developing a process similar to what we are doing in Vietnam,” Zieba said during a discussion with participants of the Cochran Fellowship Program on Agricultural Trade Policy and Consumer Advocacy.

“We’d like to have that type of program in the Philippines as well as in other parts of Asia. We are exploring that option. Right now we are trying to figure out who are the best people to talk to,” Zieba said.

‘Grossly misleading’

Zieba revealed the plan as Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar dismissed alarm over the number of ASF cases in the Philippines.

Dar said the Philippines accounted for only three out of 1,000 pigs lost worldwide to ASF since the disease first appeared 98 years ago in 1921.

Over the past 98 years, global deaths due to ASF have reached about 2.5 million, Dar said.

As of August 2019, Dar said there were only “7,416 ASF cases in the Philippines… This translates to merely 0.0029 percent, or three deaths for every 1,000 pigs.”

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‘Miniscule’

The agriculture chief said Philippine cases also represented “a miniscule six deaths for every 10,000” pigs of the country’s total swine population, which stood at 12.7 million as of July 2019 according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.”

Dar dismissed as “grossly misleading, malicious and irresponsible” the Inquirer report on Wednesday that 7,952 pigs died because of ASF in the 15 days from Aug. 30 to Sept. 14.

“(S)uch misleading stories create panic among pork consumers and the general public, and could destroy the country’s P260-billion swine industry that provides income and livelihood for millions of Filipino families,” Dar said.

“This is because small backyard raisers comprise two-thirds of the country’s swine industry,” he added.

In the same period, there were a total of about 10,000 (9,997) reports of losses worldwide, of which about 8,200 (8,196) are in Asia including the Philippines.

Further, Dar said the Department of Agriculture (DA)  and other partners from other government agencies and the private sector were “doing their utmost” to effectively manage, control, and contain the threat of ASF to protect the industry and to ensure the health of consumers.

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