Dr. Flora Bigot, head of the South Cotabato Veterinary Office (File photo courtesy of the provincial government)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – South Cotabato province has shipped around 51,000 heads of live hogs to Metro Manila in the last two months in the wake of the continuing shortage of pork and related products in the markets.

Dr. Flora Bigot, head of the Provincial Veterinary Office, said Tuesday the shipments are part of the supplies earlier committed by hog producers in the province to help address the rising prices of pork.

From January 1 to March 5, she said the local government already generated around PHP1.5 million in revenues from the issuance of veterinary health certificates, which is required for the transport of the animals.

Last year, the province earned some PHP10.2 million from such issuances.

“The hog shipments are continuing and we are fortunate as of now because the province remains free from ASF (African Swine Fever),” she said in a statement.

South Cotabato and this city are currently the top suppliers of pork to Metro Manila and other key markets in the country, with weekly shipments of live hogs and frozen carcass reaching 10,000 heads.

The area has a combined sow population of around 55,000 and produces over 45,000 heads of hogs a month.

The hog shipments are being facilitated by the Department of Agriculture (DA), in coordination with farmers’ cooperatives, consolidators, and hog producers under the South Cotabato Swine Producers Association.

DA officials had negotiated a farm-gate price of PHP144 per kilo for the live hogs and added a subsidy of PHP21 per kilo as transportation incentive.

Bigot said they are continually working with DA-Region 12 and concerned stakeholders to keep the area under the “green zone” or free from ASF.

She said the province was able to maintain such status despite the recorded outbreaks last year in North Cotabato and Sarangani province. These areas have not reported any new cases of the disease in the last two months.

The official said they tightened the province’s borders to prevent the possible entry of contaminated animals and meat products from ASF-affected areas in Region 10, especially Cagayan de Oro City and Misamis Oriental.

She said they are hoping that it will not spread to Bukidnon, which has a high population of hogs and quite close to Region 12.

For now, Bigot said the biggest challenge for the province is the possible entry of contaminated processed pork products from the Davao Region, which remains affected by the highly destructive swine disease.

“Davao is known for its chorizo and longganisa that are sold at cheaper prices. We don’t want these to enter the province as they could trigger the spread of ASF,” she said.

She assured that the province is working hard to keep the area ASF-free through the round-the-clock monitoring in its border checkpoints. (PNA)