Friday, 29 January 2010

RP seen exporting pork for the first time

Test kits to ensure pork quality to arrive next month

THE TEST KITS for the Ebola Reston virus are expected to arrive starting next month, a development that might allow the country to export pork for the first time, a senior Agriculture official said on Wednesday.

Davino P. Catbagan, director of the Bureau of Animal Indsutry, told BusinessWorld on Wednesday that they are expecting the kits to arrive in the second week of February.
"When the kits arrive, our priority is South Cotabato," Mr. Catbagan said.

The South Cotabato-based Matutum Meat Packing Corp. was set to make its first shipment of 50,000 kilograms of boxed pork on Dec. 10, 2008, the same day when the Agriculture and Health departments issued a voluntary ban on pork exports because of the detection of the non-lethal Ebola Reston virus in local hogs.

Early last year, authorities from the World Health Organization, World Organization for Animal Health, and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations tested six people and hogs from the Pandi farm in Bulacan positive of the virus. This incident prompted the government to cull some 6,500 hogs in the infected farm. No Ebola Reston cases have been detected since.

The Ebola Reston, which is only found in the Philippines, had been confined to monkeys and the detection on hogs is the first time it has jumped species.
"We requested for at least 5,000 test kits." Mr. Catbagan said.

The Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention is the only laboratory that produces Ebola Reston test kits.

Sought for comment, Cathy M. Romero, Sales and Marketing manager of Matutum, said "That would be good news so we can already go on with our plan to export pork."
In 2008, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore allowed Matutum to export beef, mutton, and poultry products.

Mindanao was chosen by the government to pioneer pork exports since it is certified free from foot-and-mouth disease since 2001.

Ms. Romero said the government will test hogs from General Santos-based hog farms, which supply Matutum.

"They are," Ms. Romero said, when asked if Singapore is still looking at importing pork from Mindanao.

Mr. Catbagan concurred, saying that "Singapore is still interested in pork imports."
It will be the first time that the Philippines, a net importer, will export pork products.

The country imported 108.739 million kilograms of pork and pork preparations worth $74.449 million, including freight, in the eleven months to November last year, data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics show.

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