Hog raisers: Help came too late, too little

Top02 082019
File photo shows a pig pen in Rodriquez, Rizal

GOVERNMENT intervention in areas of Rizal province ravaged by a strange animal disease came too late and too little for them, said hog raisers who said they are now stripped bare of their livelihood.

Gaddie Mercado, 46, could not hide his frustration over the supposed slow government response in addressing the still-unidentified disease that killed two of his sows.

Despite his ordeal, he said he is among the lucky ones as some of his hogs are still alive. Other neighbors with backyard pig pens lost all sows.

Sows can give birth to as many as 10 piglets, which can be sold for P2,500 each.

“It is already too late [for government help] because our hogs are now almost all gone,” Mercado told BusinessMirror in an interview.

Marilou Escavel-Coronel, 44, lost all of her nine hogs to the disease in the past weeks, just as some of them were about to give birth.

“I even took a loan to expand my pig pen in anticipation of the new piglets. That is why when my sow died, I thought I was also going to die from crying, thinking how I could pay my loans,” Coronel said.

Government indemnification

On Monday, Mercado said they got word that the local government had started confiscating the remaining hogs in Rizal, to be culled in exchange for P3,000 per head.

“Do they think that is enough? They should pay for the selling price of the hogs,” Mercado said.

Live hogs may fetch as much as P10,000 in the market.

Mercado said the proposed compensation for affected hog raisers will only be enough to pay for two weeks’ worth of feeds, usually at P1,500 per sack.

Lelita Ledala, 65, also hopes for bigger compensation. “I don’t have any other source of income. I don’t want to depend on my children [for my needs] since they already have their own families,” Ledala said.

Mercado, however, said assistance would most likely not cover hog raisers like Coronel, who lost their livestock days before the government initiated the depopulation procedures. Initially, the plan is to compensate only those whose live hogs were taken for culling.

“If those who lost their hogs to the disease will say they have 13 hogs, would the authorities believe them?” Mercado said, by way of explaining why government is inclined to compensate only those with culled pigs.

The government did no inventory of the existing hog population in their area when the disease started to spread a few weeks ago, leaving it without any basis for compensating those whose entire livestock died from the disease.

A more encompassing intervention, he suggested, is offering affected raisers with loans to buy new livestock.

These, he said, should be at low interest, given their heavy financial losses.

Unknown cause

Authorities have yet to identify the exact hog disease, which spread in Rizal, let alone determine its cause.

Based on testimonies of hog raisers interviewed by the BusinessMirror, common symptoms of infected hogs include bloody snout excretion, poor appetite, miscarriage for pregnant sows and red rashes, which would turn purple near death of the host.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said it may take two weeks to three months before it could determine the killer hog disease in Rizal.

Until then, DA called for stronger biosecurity measures in the province, such as compliance with animal checkpoints and checking the quality of food given to surviving hogs.

Swill feeding

Government officials and the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc. warned backyard raisers against feeding their hogs with kanin baboy or swill due to its potential deadly foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and the dreaded African Swine Fever (AFS).

It is common practice for backyard hog raisers in Rizal to feed their hogs with cheap swill taken from the landfill in the province.

“There are some people who regularly deliver it to us at P180 per sack,” Ledala said.

Mercado said backyard hog raisers cannot afford to exclusively give feeds, worth P1,500 per sack.

“Perhaps the government could help us create an association to manage our own feed mill for backyard raisers,” Mercado said.

He said the mill would not only make the food given to backyard-raised hogs safer, but it will also allow them to earn more.

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