Sec. Alcala urges livestock industry to be vigilant on major diseases

Countries where the virus was discovered among...Image via WikipediaA March 10, 2011 press release by the Department of Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala urged the officials and staff of the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to carry out more stringent bio-security measures against major animal diseases like foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), which has currently affected over three million heads of cattle in South Korea.

The measures should be implemented nationwide, covering all livestock and poultry farms, livestock auction markets, meat processing plants, including temporary resting areas of migratory birds, and quarantine check points at airports and sea ports all over the country.

“We must prevent FMD and avian influenza from reaching our shores,” Sec. Alcala said during the 81st anniversary of the DA-BAI, in Diliman, Quezon City, March 8, 2011, which was likewise attended by stakeholders of the country’s livestock and poultry industry.

“Kung may duda tayo, huwag na natin itong palampasin. At huwag na rin tayong umasa sa dati nating ginagawa, (When in doubt, let us not be complacent. And let us not rely on our old practices),” he said.

He urged the BAI and other DA livestock agencies to put a stronger focus on food safety to make the country’s meat, and other livestock and poultry products globally-competitive. Thus, it is imperative to employ hygienic farm practices in tandem with animal health protection throughout the food supply chain, the DA chief added.

The other four DA livestock agencies are the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), National Dairy Authority (NDA), National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) and the Livestock Development Council (LDC).

Sec. Alcala also enjoined the NMIS, in partnership with local government units and the private sector, to strengthen quality standards and ensure the establishment of more world-class production and processing infrastructure like triple-A (AAA) slaughterhouses, and related cold storage and postharvest facilities.

Said facilities should be strategically located near livestock and poultry farms, and corn-producing provinces, as corn serves as main livestock and poultry feed ingredient.

He credited the BAI for being at the forefront of the country’s continuing freedom from major animal diseases, notably FMD and avian influenza or bird flu.

“In particular, our avian flu-free status allows us to export poultry products to Japan, Hongkong, and the Middle East, as well as breeder chicks to Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Nepal and the Middle East,” Alcala said.

“At the same time, these favorable conditions offer us a better fighting chance in our bid to become a reliable source of quality livestock products, notably for the global halal market,” he added.

Alcala noted that there is an existing large demand for geese and duck in Japan, while there is much promise in the market for Philippine-bred Peking duck.

He said the country imports an average of five container vans of Peking duck per week to serve the local Chinese restaurant market, while studies have shown that Peking ducks grown in China have the same taste and flavor with those grown locally.

To be more competitive, the livestock industry also needs to make regulatory systems comparable with the best in the world by consolidating its services and improving both inspection and accreditation operations.

“There is also a need to pursue a satisfactory measure of equivalence between national standards and those of our prospective foreign markets,” Alcala said.