BPI: Strict biosecurity needed to survive and thrive amid African Swine Fever

BPI biosecurity program

The Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) says hog raisers in the country need to improve their risk management standards and sustainability consciousness and that they must push for a stricter biosecurity program as the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak continues to hound the Philippine agriculture.

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ASF has already taken a big toll on the country’s pig population. The key to surviving this hog epidemic is a well-studied and properly implemented biosecurity program that will help hog raisers set up practicable measures to prevent or control the spread of infection within a pig farm, said BPI Sustainable Development Finance (SDF) Head Jo Ann Eala.

Experts warn that up to 750,000 sows could be affected if ASF continues to spread across the country, causing a supply shortfall and price hike, said Vino Borromeo, Pig Improvement Company (PIC) Philippines General Manager. Mr. Borromeo said the virus will remain in the country and continue to spread until an effective ASF vaccine arrives, and that attaining the supply level in 2019 may take at least 10 years.

“The shortfall will fast track the transformation of the industry to adopt a more modern system of farming, put technology into the process, and innovate solutions to be more efficient and more conscious of the biosecurity that we need to put in place to protect herds,” explained Mr. Borromeo.

BPI Head of Agribusiness Jun Ruba said, “Until proper biosecurity discipline is implemented, it will be really tough to repopulate and ensure that you don’t get hit again.”

But with the limited funding and resources for an effective control program and lack of incentives for voluntary reporting, Mr. Ruba said that the help of different organizations can aid in solving the problem. “We’re all hoping that we can put more controls through the combined efforts of different agencies and members of the industry who can help find the solution,” he added.

Opportunities

Ruba noted that there are opportunities arising from the ASF epidemic that pig farmers may consider.

For new investors, they have the opportunity to fill in the lost sow capacity from the disease, and at the same time strategically position the facilities where disease prevalence is minimal to none.

“It can be further strengthened by good biosecurity measures based on what the industry learned from ASF-affected farms. Moreover, existing farms or investors may expand to new sites,” he said.

For farms that have not been infected, especially in the Visayas region, expansion of breeder facilities may be an opportunity as the repopulation of the Luzon region would warrant robust gilt production.

Technical assistance

As part of its Sustainable Development Finance (SDF) program, BPI offers financial products and technical assistance that will help hog raisers, especially those who own big herds, in boosting their biosecurity protocols to avoid and control ASF and other diseases, and achieve higher business efficiency, productivity, and sustainability.

“Next-generation pig farmers who want to remain sustainable and profitable need to employ a holistic management approach, which includes modern hog raising technologies and practices as well as carefully designed risk management systems in their business model. Among the innovations implemented by the more resilient and successful farms are the tunnel-ventilated housing facilities as well as a biogas system. These innovations, which BPI SDF can help pig farmers set up, make pig farms not only more efficient and profitable, but also less prone to animal health risks and more resilient in extreme weather conditions,” said Eala.

“To be able to address the limitation on supplies and maximize business opportunities given elevated pork prices, it is crucial for the pig industry to be agile in implementing strategies to manage the pig population and pork supply and distribution across the country. This means exploring the possibility of maximizing productivity of the pig genetics, animal health management and ensuring stricter biosecurity measures, to ensure sustainable business operations,” said Ruba.

BPI and clients have given back to fisherfolk in need during the pandemic through the Sulong Pinoy program.

BPI lead economist Jun Neri, Jr. had earlier stated that faster reopening and stronger stimulus are needed for the economy to improve in 2021.

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The Good News Pilipinas Team is a group of Filipino journalists who advocate putting more good news stories about the Philippines and Filipinos on the media.