Agri chief assures funds for ASF-affected hog raisers

MANILA — Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Tuesday assured the availability of funds to help small backyard hog raisers affected by the African swine fever (ASF).

Dar was reacting to a report published in a national newspaper that there is not enough fund to assist backyard hog raisers affected by the dreaded disease.

“The headline of one major newspaper was malicious and misleading. It is far from the truth,” Dar said in a statement.

“It’s clear in the story that we have money, but we have to understand that paying each raiser the actual cost of culled pigs would mean benefiting only a few hundred raisers, and leaving out others,” he noted.

With an initial reported culled pigs of 7,416, Dar said the Department of Agriculture (DA) would spend an initial PHP22.25 million, at an average assistance of PHP3,000 per head, regardless of weight and age.

He said the DA, through the Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC), is also giving a zero-interest, no-collateral loan worth PHP30,000 per ASF-affected hog raiser, which was also mentioned in the story, thus clearly contradicting the headline.

The DA-ACPC has allotted an initial PHP60 million to benefit some 2,000 small backyard raisers in 11 ASF-affected barangays in Rizal, Bulacan, and Quezon City.

“With this capital to tide them over, affected swine raisers can engage in any appropriate livelihood venture like broiler, layer and goat raising, and vegetable production,” Dar said.

“We wish to seek the support of the media to be more discerning and responsible in their reportage of this unfortunate episode, besetting our swine industry, where about two-thirds come from small backyard raisers,” he said.

Dar also appealed to the local chief executives, farmers and fisherfolk, and members of the public and private sectors to cooperate with the DA in tackling urgent agricultural concerns in the country, such as the low price of palay and the threat of ASF.

“Nakikiusap po kami dito sa Department of Agriculture na tayong lahat ay magtulungan para maresolba ang mga kasalukuyang problema ng sektor ng agrikultura dito sa ating bansa (The DA is appealing to all stakeholders to cooperate in tackling issues concerning agriculture in our country),” Dar said.

“Hindi tayo dapat tumitigil na gumawa ng measures para mapaunlad ang mga magsasaka sa kabukiran (We should not stop in coming up with measures that would uplift the lives of farmers in the countryside),” he added.

Dar underscored the role of the local government units, which are on the front line in serving the agriculture and fisheries sector.

With everyone’s help, the agriculture chief said he is optimistic that by the end of his three-year term, the agriculture sector would grow by at least 3 percent to 5 percent.

“Kaya natin ito kung tayo ay tulong-tulong (We can achieve this if we cooperate with one another). We have to do this responsibility together,” he said. Lilybeth Ison/PNA-