ASF-FREE. An undated photo of live hogs taken from Antique, one of the provinces in Western Visayas that remains free of African swine fever (ASF). The Department of Agriculture encourages farmers from ASF-free areas to continue raising hogs. (PNA file photo)

ILOILO CITY – The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Western Visayas has encouraged farmers, especially from areas free of African swine fever (ASF), to continue raising hogs given the demand for the high-value commodity.

The provinces of Negros Occidental, Aklan and Antique remain free of ASF while commercial farms in Negros Occidental have already installed their biosecurity measures.

“For those areas, we still encourage to raise hogs because demand for pork is really huge. This is the right time for us to keep on raising hogs to provide for the demand, even just at the local level,” Regional Veterinary Quarantine Officer Dr. John Roel Hilario said in an interview on Wednesday.

The DA hog inventory in Western Visayas as of Jan. 1 this year stands at 1,126,462 heads although the department is still waiting for the latest report for the first quarter of 2023.

Of the production, 89.90 percent are grown in the backyard while the rest are being raised in commercial farms.

The pork sufficiency in the region during the last quarter of 2022 was at 304.69 percent, with the consumption demand pegged at 17, 850.82 metric tons and a surplus of 36,538.73 metric tons.

The region's pork per capita consumption is at 8.775 kilograms, with Iloilo and Aklan as the top pork-consuming provinces.

However, Hilario said that Iloilo, which is the second biggest supplier of pork in the region next to Negros Occidental, has suffered a decline in its inventory.

Data from the Office of the Provincial Veterinarian showed that the hog inventory in Iloilo declined by 45 percent in February, or equivalent to 151,914 heads from 277,421 heads in September 2022.

Hilario said before the ASF, Iloilo province was the portal for hogs coming from various provinces in Panay that were shipped to Luzon.

In 2022, close to 400,000 heads of hogs were shipped out via Iloilo.

“If there is one thing that we would like to secure is the sustainability of the pork,” he added.

DA officer in charge Regional Executive Director Engr. Jose Albert Barrogo, in a press conference on Tuesday, said the training of barangay biosecurity officers (BBOs) by the Agricultural Training Institute is focused on Negros Occidental, Aklan and Antique.

The BBOs will serve as frontliners doing the reporting, monitoring and surveillance against the ASF.

As of March 27, the DA recorded active ASF cases in 138 barangays from 34 municipalities in the provinces of Guimaras, Capiz and Iloilo.

In Iloilo, 122 barangays from 25 municipalities have ASF cases, eight barangays from two municipalities in Guimaras and eight barangays from seven municipalities from Capiz. (PNA)