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DA chief bares P740-million swine ‘repopulation’ program

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is seeking the Cabinet’s approval for its P740-million proposal to subsidize half of the insurance premium of commercial hog raisers to encourage them to partake in the government’s pig repopulation tack.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar disclosed in a Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform meeting that he will present this proposal during a Cabinet meeting on Monday evening.

“Additionally, tonight we will propose to the Cabinet that the government will shoulder the hog insurance for 5 million hogs to be repopulated. That is about P740 million,” Dar said during the hearing on February 22, 2021.

“This will now be the indemnification for the backyard and commercial raisers. We will only subsidize the commercial raisers, while backyard raisers do not have to pay a premium as long as they are registered in the RSBSA [Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture]. This will encourage commercial hog raisers to repopulate,” Dar added.

Based on Dar’s presentation, it would cost a total of P1.48 billion to insure 5 million pigs, comprising 1 million breeders and 4 million pigs.

Dar said the government will shoulder half of the total cost while the remainder would be paid by the commercial raiser.

Insurance coverage for a fattener is up to P10,000 with a 2.25 percent, while breeders are insured for P14,500 at a 4 percent premium payment, according to Dar’s presentation.

On top of this, Dar said they have proposed refinements on livestock insurance to include pigs that would be killed by African swine fever (ASF) and those that are culled upon orders of the government.

Dar proposed that the terms for livestock insurance include a “waiver provision disallowing indemnity payment if hogs are culled or killed as ordered by the government, either by an administrative order or just a slaughter order.”

Dar added that they also proposed to increase the indemnification to 100 percent from the current 60 percent if the pigs are affected by the ASF pandemic.

Agriculture Undersecretary William Medrano presented to senators the DA’s pig repopulation program which would cost about P28.1 billion, bulk of which or about P27.5 billion is in the form of loans from state-owned financial institutions.

Medrano’s presentation showed that only P600 million worth of interventions are in the form of grants to the hog raisers.

Medrano said the DA’s programs include a calibrated repopulation that targets to benefit 8,000 hog raisers with 40,000 breeders of hogs distributed and the establishment of breeder multiplier farms that seek to produce 1,110 breeders.

The DA plans to construct 1 nucleus breeder farm, 15 multiplier farms and acquire 15 more breeder farms.

Medrano added they plan to construct 145 facilities that would produce 87,000 breeders and 54 1,000-sow level farms that would produce 21,600 grand parent stock and 272,160 parent stock breeders, which would result in the production of 5.2 million finishers or pigs.

Medrano pointed out that the target production is sufficient to replenish the number of sows and pigs lost nationwide due to ASF and ASF-related actions.

Based on the timeline presented by Medrano, the Calibrated Repopulation program would begin this year with the marketing of produced hogs happening in the second semester.

As for the Swine Breeder Multiplier Farms and the intensification and modernization of production facilities in the ASF-free zones, they would run for three years until 2023, based on Medrano’s presentation.

The DA’s proposed interventions did not sit well with some senators as they pointed out that the bulk of the programs are funded by loans, which they noted is burdensome to hog raisers amid the risks caused by ASF and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Those are all loans. Who will loan the P27.5 billion? Do you think if you give that much loans, our farmers will recover? Only P600 million is aid. That is not realistic,” Sen. Cynthia A. Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform, said.

“You just made it beautiful, saying it is P28 billion, when in fact the bulk is loan. It’s just good to the ears but in reality is nothing. The projects are only P500 million worth,” Villar added.

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