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DA told to accredit private labs for ASF testing

A female hog tends to her piglets in this BusinessMirror file photo.

The Philippine College of Swine Practitioners (PCSP) urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to allow private laboratories to conduct tests on blood samples from hogs following the outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) in several areas in Luzon.

PCSP made this proposal in a letter to Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) OIC-Director Ronnie Domingo. The group of veterinarians said allowing private laboratories to conduct ASF tests will avoid backlogs and prevent trade disruptions.

The group also supported the government’s requirement of negative ASF test for farms that need shipping permits. This, the PCSP said, will ensure that only “apparently healthy” and ASF-negative pigs are harvested.

PCSP said government must recognize and accredit private diagnostic laboratories capable of performing the ASF PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to be utilized for ASF diagnostics.

The PCSP proposed this as an interim measure while the DA-BAI is improving the capabilities of  Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratories (RADDLs).

“[The PCSP urges] DA-BAI to hasten the improvement of capabilities in RADDLs, but in the interim, recognize the ASF PCR tests of BAI-accredited private laboratories to avoid backlog of test result release and hasten the flow of commerce by allowing farmers to enjoy the seven-day validity of their shipping permits,” the group said in the letter dated October 7, but made public on its web site recently.

The PCSP said several hog raisers have “raised concerns on receiving their tests results after three days of submission.” The PCSP noted that the delay “shortens the validity of their shipping permits that are valid for only seven days from date of submission.”

The DA said it is experiencing backlogs in laboratory tests as the BAI is not only conduct tests on samples from quarantine zones but also from hog raisers, especially commercial ones, that are in need of ASF-free certification.

Late last month, the DA permitted commercial raisers to transport hogs from their farms even if they are located within the 1-kilometer (km) control zone for as long as their animals are free from ASF.

The DA issued Administrative Order (AO) 10 which outlined the new guidelines covering the movement of live animals from swine farms within the 1-km zone of areas struck by ASF.

The measure is meant to avert supply disruptions and price spikes, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The order, dated September 25, effectively amended the government’s protocol on controlling and containing the spread of the fatal hog disease as stipulated in its contingency plan.

Under AO 10, moving out of live hogs intended for slaughter in commercial farms from the 1-km zones should be permitted if laboratory tests conducted on the pigs for two consecutive weeks reveal that the animals are negative for ASF.

The PCSP also proposed that the DA-BAI “waive” its practice of having personnel “to witness the sample of blood collection.” The group said DA-BAI personnel should just “wait at the gates and allow internal farm personnel to collect the blood samples.”

“The licensed farm veterinarian/consultant will attest to the correctness of sampling. The PCSP will be willing to assist farmers in this regard,” it said in its letter.

The letter was signed by PCSP President Dr. Zoilo Lapus and PCSP Specialty Board Chairman Dr. Tomas Acorda. The PCSP is the country’s leading group of Filipino swine practitioners/veterinarians.

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