Pastor Jun Orozco maintains to support his hogs through an everyday supply of feeds to reach the marketable weight.

The local hog raising sector is reeling from the low farmgate prices of live hogs in Palawan due to an oversupply that had been triggered in recent months by increased production. Local industry leaders have expressed fears that present farmgate prices for live hogs are no longer sustainable for raisers to continue growing the livestock.

Palawan Swine Producers Association (PSPA) consultant Ariel Colongon said the current farmgate price of live hogs at P120 per kilo is hurting producers, and may even continue to drop down to a low of P110 per kilo.

“Sa ngayon ay nasa P120 na lang dahil farmgate price ng raisers ay nasa P115. Ibig sabihin noon ay nasa breakeven ang raisers sa P115. May nabibili na nga na P110. Ano ibig sabihin noon? Talo na ang farmers noon, pero bakit tuloy? Kasi nandiyan na ang hayop, wala silang choice. Ibebenta niya na para kaunti lang talo niya pero baka sa sunod ay hindi na siya mag-alaga,” he said.

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Local hog raisers lament that low live weight farmgate price is giving them a hard team in their business.

Colongon described the problem as already a “crisis” situation.

“Ang asosasyon ay dumadaan sa krisis. Ito na, bumababa na ang live weight ngayon, ito ang nakakatakot ngayon,” Colongon said.

Pastor Jun Orozco, a hog raiser in Barangay Irawan, told Palawan News that he started raising pigs sometime in the late 90s but was discouraged as live weight per kilo only ranges P60 to P70 back then. He went back into raising around 2018 after he was encouraged as prices started to play at over a hundred per kilo.

“Sa ngayon ay umaabot ng P120, kaya at least may kita kami na kaunti. Hindi katulad noon, pero ang masakit sa lahat, ngayon pa lang sana babawi, nangyari ay biglang taas naman ng feeds tapos baba na naman ng baboy, ngayon ata nasa P110 o P115 kaya nasabi ko na medyo lie low na muna,” he said.

Even Dr. Darius Mangcucang of the Provincial Veterinary Office (ProVet) sympathizes with the plight of the hog raisers.

“Kawawa ang farmers sa price, oo (nasa krisis) na ang bilihan. Madi-discourage ang farmers kasi kung ako baka mag-stop na rin ako mag-alaga. Ang mahal ng feeds tapos ang pagbibenta mo ang liit lang, halos wala ka na kinita,” he said.

Threat of ASF
As a backyard hog raiser, Orozco said that their operation had continued despite the pandemic. But he expressed concern that the entry of African swine fever (ASF) in Palawan will destroy the local industry.

Pastor Jun Orozco convinces himself to return to the hog-raising industry after years of hiatus in the hope to avail good prices in the market.

ProVet said that blood samples of pigs from farms and slaughterhouses are now tested in the Regional Animal Diagnostic Laboratory (RADL) to detect the presence of ASF. It is previously sent to Manila for testing. However, it is not giving an assurance that ASF will be completely controlled as some traders are illegally importing pork-based products, particularly in northern towns. 

Aside from the ASF threat, raisers observed said that during the start of lockdown in 2020, the earlier movement restriction caused stress due to delays at checkpoints.

“Sa ground, namamatayan ng baboy along the way kasi imbes na maaga makarating ay naaabutan ng init. Stress na at bawal na bawal sa animal welfare, kaya kung dati, kung ganitong oras tayo umaalis ay agahan natin para pagdating sa checkpoint. May epekto lalo na sa mga hindi pa naka-adjust,” Colongon said.

The shortage in feeds supply caused by restrictions was also experienced, even expensive offers were availed just to feed their pigs.

Even though there is an excess of feeds, prices have stayed high, harming local raisers. Raisers must pay an extra P1,300 to P1,500 for each bag to achieve marketable hog weight in three months.

“Kung iri-reduce mo naman ang pagkain ng baboy, titipirin ka naman ng paglaki. Ang time at pag-consume mo ay lugi. Pero kung naaaluwalan mo ng magandang pagkain, bibigyan ka naman ng magandang timbang ng baboy kapag nagkabentahan,” he said.

Orozco expresses fear over the possibility of the ASF entering Palawan and seriously affecting the hog industry.

PSPA suggested that local raisers should register themselves with the association and the Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC) to avail affordable feeds supply.

Increase of hog raisers and oversupply
The province and city suffered a shortage of pig meat in January as a consequence of the importation restriction enacted to prevent the ASF from spreading. It has affected the local food supply, pushing prices to record highs.

As Palawan retains its classification as a green zone or ASF-free zone, buyers from Manila were also able to get live pigs in the province. Local farmers took advantage of the increased selling price of P160 per kilogram given by purchasers since the local market rate was insufficient to cover their costs.

Local hog raisers took the opportunity to sell their produce outside the province.

“Ang nangyari ay nakapaglabas din tayo ng kaunti, dahil sa limited lang din ang kinukuha, ‘yong pag-anak ng inahin. Medyo maganda rin ‘yong bentahan noon, nasa P160. Kung magtimbang ang baboy ng 65 or 70, it is more than P10,000 kaya medyo kita ka roon. Ang problema, doon lang kikita sana kaso biglang bagsak naman,” he said.

The short-period increase of price also encouraged several raisers to pursue the opportunity in the industry. It resulted in an oversupply of hogs, raisers observed.

Based on the ProVet farm monitoring, oversupply of hogs has been observed in the towns of Rizal, Aborlan, Roxas, and Dumaran which troubles the farmers on how they will dispose at a justified price.

“Noong may lumalabas na baboy, bakbak ng alaga ang farmers natin kas inga mahal na ang bentahan. Biglang huminto kas inga nagkaroon ng (order) si President Duterte na mag-aangkat ng imported na baboy galing sa ASF-free countries. Nag-stop ng kuha ng Manila sa green zones. Ang mga nag-alaga, sila naman ngayon ay may problema,” Mangcucang said.

“Kung tutuusin ay hindi tayo namomroblema sa supply, minsan iniisip nila na mag-repopulate na. Kumuha na sa ibang green zones na kung tutuusin ay ‘yon ang magpapanganib sa probinsya natin. Kasi syempre kami ang nakakaalam, kami ang nasa veterinary side,” he added.

Prohibiting entry of live pigs
To avoid the entry of ASF in the province, the entry of live pigs, pork meat, and pork-based products was prohibited. Palawan remained ASF-free since the outbreak started in 2019.

The association of hog raisers said that it might result in inbreeding due to the absence of new breeds coming into the province to upgrade the industry.

Officials and raisers fear that if the current trend of selling price maintains, it will discourage local hog raisers to continue in the market.

“Dahil wala na bagong breed na dumarating, ang mangyayari ay magkakaroon ng inbreeding. Magkakaroon na ng interrelation ng breeding program ang mga baboy that will cause the industry to fall down. Bakit? Hindi na natin ma-maintain ang quality meat. Hindi na natin ma-attain ‘yong sinasabi natin na additional income for the farmers,” Colongon said.

“The fattening period o ‘yong pag-aalaga ng mga baboy has been extended kasi proliferated na siya imbes na pinapataba mol ang siya ng five months, gagawin mo na siyang six months to reach the market weight na 90 or 95 kilos. An additional one month for the farmer to grow will incur for an additional cost of production. So kapag nadagdagan gastos niya, lumiliit kita niya,” he said.

Colongon said that the association is now waiting for the signed permit by Governor Jose Alvarez to import new breeds from the green zones or ASF-free areas, as per their discussion with Board Member Albert Rama.

Palawan as foot and mouth disease (FMD) free is an edge of the province to export and venture into business opportunities through new breeds.

Mangcucang said he understood the local raisers’ position, but that allowing live pigs into the province would exacerbate the situation. He made it clear that this was just a temporary situation.

Dr. Darius Mangcucang explains that the prohibition of importing live pigs will only be temporary to ensure the safety of the province against the ASF.

“Possible na kapag magpasok tayo ng live para i-upgrade o mag-repopulate ay mas malaki ang chance na magkaroon ng problema sa ASF. Kasi sa MIMAROPA ay hindi sila pumapayag ng live pig kahit nga semilya ay hindi sila pumapayag. Kapag nagpapasok tayo ng baboy, breeder, mag-repopulate tayo, isang farm lang magka-infection, ubos lahat ng baboy natin sa Palawan,” Mangcucang said.

He advised raisers to wait as the government is addressing the ASF, such as developing a vaccine.

“Temporary lang naman ‘yan, ang pini-prevent natin diyan ay ang province-wide na hog population natin. Kapag ‘yan ang nadamay, kawawa rin ang farmers natin,” he added.

Appeal to P120 per kilo the baseline price
The farmgate price of live weight is now fluctuating, according to Colongon, and is controlled by middlemen and merchants. As a result, raisers have little option but to accept the price demanded by a trader to sell their pigs.

“Ang nagtatanong ng presyo, ay growers, tinatanong ang middleman kung magkano ba ang bili. That should not be like that, ang buyer should ask the farmer na nag-alaga noon kung magkano ba ang presyo ng baboy, magkano ba ang farmgate price,” he said.

Ariel Colongon of the Palawan Swine Producers Association asserts his stand that a balance must be attained within the players in the industry for a win-win situation.

He went on to say that middlemen and traders are also involved in manipulating the price of carcasses supplied to market sellers.

The organization does not want to exclude them from the business, but it does want to emphasize that a balance must be achieved and that farmers must be safeguarded.

“Ayaw namin sila alisin, middlemen and traders ay kasama sa players ng industry. Ang gusto lang namin ay ma-balance ito in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, the traders and middleman, growers, and vendors. Lahat ng players, and the legislation, city and province. Matulungan kami na magkaroon ng ordinansa na magkaroon ng protection lahat ng parties,” he said.

He said that the legislative body must act on the issue to create a balance of profits among all industry players.

Colongon said he had previously spoken with Rama of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s agriculture committee, asking that the farmgate price in Palawan be “locked-in” at P120.

“Bigyan niyo na lang kami ng limang pisong kita sa bawat kilo, payag na kami doon,” he said.

The City Veterinary Office (CVO) in Puerto Princesa showed interest in assisting the organization via Dr. Indira Santiago, offering a P130 per kilogram ceiling price.

She said farmers from the surrounding communities must sell their hogs in the city as it is a good choice for them. However, she said depending on the weather, a pig might lose a kilogram every hour of travel.

ProVet, according to Mangcucang, may make a recommendation to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to assist the farmers in resolving their problem and justifying the price they are appealing.

Local hog raisers discouraged
According to Colongon, backyard growers make up 70 to 80 percent of the province’s producers, while commercial farmers make up 20 to 35 percent.

Colongon, who led Palawan’s Swine Breeding and Development Center in 1992, claimed he had previously researched the sector. Before being taken over by the local government, the initiative assisted in the dispersal of almost 3,000 high-breed pigs in many municipalities to improve local stocks.

The PSPA believed that if the farmgate price maintains P110 per kilo, the supply will be affected.

“Marami ang titigil. Ang buhay ng industry ay backyard— ang maapektuhan ay backyard. Ito ang sigurado akong titigil, yong mga nag-aalaga lang ng lima, sampu o kinse, baka pinakamataas ay bente. Siyempre alam ko na wala akong kikitain, ang maiiwan na lang ay ‘yong may kapital,” he said.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.