FDA must tighten regulations on processed meat – DA

Marje Pelayo   •   September 17, 2019   •   240

MANILA, Philippines – Regulations on processed meat such as well-loved Filipino delicacies tocino and longganisa should be tightened by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

According to Agriculture Undersecretary for Consumer Affairs Ernesto Gonzales, consumers cannot be complacent on buying these processed products especially if they are not sure of the source or origin of the raw meat.

Gonzales added that it is difficult to determine if the pork meat is contaminated with African Swine Fever (ASF) once it is processed.

He added that even ‘botcha’ or double-dead pork meat can be made into meat delicacies without the consumer noticing it because of colorings and extenders used in the process.

The official said the best way to determine if the pork meat is safe for consumption is to know the source of the raw meat, and if it is certified by the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS).

Kapag na-issue-han na ang karne from slaughterhouse ng meat inspection certificate (once meat from the slaughterhouse is issued with meat inspection certificate), definitely that meat is safe to eat,” Gonzales said.

However, the DA admitted that the government is lacking when it comes to regulations on processed meat so the coordination of the local government units (LGUs) is of utmost importance.

Iyang problema natin yung mga maliliit na food processors na gumagawa ng mga longanisa, tocino, ang regulation hindi ganoon ka-strict ( The problem with small-time food processors or makers of longanisa and tocino is that the regulation is not that strict), ” Gonzales noted.

If ever the processed meat is infected with ASF, Gonzales said, it is still safe to eat, provided that it went through the proper cooking procedure of 30 minutes under 70’C temperature. – MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

DA to review Rice Tariffication law as Phl ranks as world’s biggest rice importer

Maris Federez   •   November 12, 2019

Filipino port workers unload sacks of rice, which are imported from Vietnam to be distributed by the National Food Authority (NFA), inside a ship docked at Surigao port, Mindanao, southern Philippines, 15 April 2008. EPA-EFE/ALANNAH TORRALBA (FILE)

MANILA, Philippines – A United States agency report reveals that the Philippines has become the world’s biggest importer of rice, just months after the rice tariffication bill was enacted.

The US Department of Agriculture – Foreign Agricultural Service report also projected that the Philippines will have imported a total of 3-million metric tons of rice before the year ends.

This is 58% higher compared to the 1.9-million metric tons of rice that the country imported in 2018.

The Philippine reportedly outranked China – the biggest rice importer– which is expected to import 2.5 metric tons of rice.

The Department of Agriculture record, however, said that this early, the Philippines has already imported 2.99 million metric tons from January to October.

DA spokesperson Noel Reyes added that 1.8 million metric tons of the total amount of rice that the country has imported were placed after the enactment of the rice tariffication bill in March.

“We cannot restrict. Kasi kung ire-restrict mo ‘yan, we are going against the law, unless the law says, we can only import so much,” Reyes said.

The DA admitted that there may have been an over-importation of rice in the country.

Because of this, DA Secretary William Dar and Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food Chairperson Cynthia Villar are planning to review the said law.

“That’s the feeling of the department because of the complaints of farmers and farmers groups,” Reyes said.

“That’s the wish of the secretary and Senator Villar after a year, they have to review the RTL (Rice Tariffication Law) and probably put in some more provisions so as not to over-exceed our rice requirements,” he added.

Several farmer groups share the same sentiment.

The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) said the government must raise the rice importation tariff and focus on increasing the presence of local rice in the market.

“Kapag dumating na ‘yung panahon na naubos na ‘yung sobra, pwede naman nilang tanggalin ‘yung additional tariff na ‘yun para magpasok ulit ng imported. Ganun sana ang laro nila,” said Raul Montemayor, FFF National Manager.

“Parang gusto nating mamatay ‘yung magsasaka, na wala tayong nilagay na control sa import, pasok lang ng pasok ‘yung importation, pabagsak ng pabagsak ang palay, at parang napakahina ‘yung response ng gobyerno,” he added.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), on the other hand, believes that the Rice Tariffication Law must be scrapped.

The group said the latest record of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows that the farm gate price of palay (grains) is now at P15 per kilo.

The KMP, however, said there are still several areas in the country where farmers sell their produce at P10 per kilo.

“Hindi na rin po namimili ang National Food Authority kasi po sa ilalim po ng Rice Tarrification and Liberalization Law, hindi na po sila mamimili ng palay sa magsasaka kaya po lalo pong binabarat ng mga malalaking traders at cartels,” said KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos.

In a statement, Bantay Bigas group spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said that they have been giving warning that the rice tariffication law will gravely affect the local farmers.

 “As we have decried repeatedly, RA 11203 will turn Filipinos into beggars of imported rice.  We all have witnessed this law causing bankruptcy to rice farmers, and this will lead to displacement and ultimately declined productivity,” Estavillo said.

To date, the price of a regular milled local rice is somewhere between P35 and P38 per kilo in several marketplaces in Quezon City.

The DA, on the other hand, is confident that the price of rice will continue to go down to P30 per kilo.

The agency also sees a downward trend in rice importation by next year as the local production improves. (from the report of Harlene Delgado) /mbmf

FDA, NMIS checks on meat processing plants for African Swine Fever

Marje Pelayo   •   November 8, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) have been doing rounds in meat processing plants across the country.

According to Health Undersecretary and FDA Officer-In-Charge Eric Domingo, there is a total of 178 meat processing plants in the Philippines.

Tests have been conducted in 68 of these facilities and the results were negative of African Swine Fever (ASF).

“Tinitingnan natin ang kanilang mga planta tapos ang kanilang mga documents kung meron silang mga inspection at saka kung pasado sila sa lahat ng standards (We check their plants as well as their documents to determine if they do regular inspections and if they pass all the standards),” Domingo said.

The FDA is coordinating with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for assistance in monitoring supplies in local public markets in relation to the ASF.

Domingo admitted that it is difficult to identify if a product is infected with ASF that’s why it is better to choose a brand that is FDA registered.

One popular delicacy during holidays is the cured or glazed ham.

According to a retailers’ group, they already have taken orders of ham but only a minimal volume as compared to last year.

One reason for this is consumers’ fear of the outbreak of ASF virus.

“What is a bit difficult to estimate right now is how much ham should we order and how much ham will people buy,” lamented Steve Cua, President of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association.

Still, Usec. Domingo said ASF-infected meat may still be consumed.

“Hindi naman po ito nakakahawa ng sakit sa tao (ASF is not transferrable to humans),” Domingo clarified.

“Kaya po natin siya talaga pinipigilan kasi ayaw nating kumalat sa iba pa pong hayop sa Pilipinas (The reason for prevention is because we do not want it to infect other animals in the Philippines),” he concluded. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

Earthquake damage, losses in Mindanao agriculture reach P13M

Marje Pelayo   •   November 7, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has noted the extent of damage that the recent earthquakes have caused to agriculture in North Cotabato and Davao del Sur.

Based on its latest report, the DA said damage and losses in earthquake-affected areas have already increased to P13.33 million from the initial P4.55 million.

The increase in the amount is attributed to the additional structural damage in Davao del Sur.

Among those damaged were several agricultural facilities, irrigation systems, and office buildings.

The DA assured that its regional offices are having an on-going physical inspection of the affected areas to further estimate the cost of damage and losses incurred.

Meanwhile, relief support has been continuously distributed to affected residents through the DA’s collaboration with concerned government agencies and non-governmental organizations. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

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