THE government has set aside P1 billion to compensate backyard raisers whose pig herd would be culled as part of efforts to control the spread of the African swine fever (ASF), a senior agriculture official said on Wednesday.
Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel T. Ca-yanan made this pronouncement during the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture and Food inquiry into the country’s ASF outbreaks.
Cayanan also revealed that the Duterte administration has approved the creation of the National ASF Task Force (NATF) during the last Cabinet meeting.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) official said the P1-billion indemnification fund for backyard raisers who will be forced to depopulate their farms was greenlighted in the same Cabinet meeting.
Cayanan made the disclosure after he was asked by Magsasaka Party-list Rep. Argel Joseph T. Cabatbat if the DA has sufficient funds to address the ASF outbreaks and to compensate hog raisers.
ASF is a highly contagious viral disease that is fatal to hogs but is not harmful to humans.
“In the activation of the National Task Force, together with it is the budget of P1 billion for indemnification, which is only for backyard raisers,” he said during the hearing.
“Backyard raisers produce about 65 percent of the country’s total hog population. The P1 billion could cover only 5 percent [of the total backyard hog raisers],” Cayanan added.
He said it was Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado who said that the national government has enough money to provide the P1 billion for the compensation of hog raisers.
Cayanan said the indemnification fund would only cover backyard hog raisers since they comprise the bulk of the country’s pork producers and they lack support, particularly in the implementation of biosecurity measures.
All of the 14 ASF outbreaks that the DA confirmed took place in backyard farms.
Money for pigs
At P3,500 per head, the P1 billion will cover approximately 300,000 heads. The country’s total hog population as of July 1 stood at 12.7 million heads, 8 million of which were raised in backyard farms.
The BusinessMirror earlier reported that the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) has been requesting for the fund since the first quarter to ensure that the government will be able to indemnify raisers should ASF strike their farms.
When the government started depopulating farms in Rodriguez, Rizal, in mid-August, the DA did not have enough funds to indemnify hog raisers.
Cristy Clasara, a DBM director, said during the hearing that the P1 billion will come from the government’s unprogrammed funds.
Clasara also disclosed that the department is set to release the special allotment release order (Saro) for the P18 million that the DA will tap to compensate hog raisers in Rodriguez, Rizal.
She added that the DBM is also processing the Saro for the P5-million indemnification fund for Region 3.
Image credits: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg