ASF narrows ham brand choices to 4; prices rise

FROM a wide array of options last Christmas, consumers may now choose from only four brands of ham to serve for Noche Buena.

This comes after Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia’s issuance of Executive Order (EO) 23 Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, aimed at protecting Cebu’s P11 billion hog industry against the threat of African swine fever (ASF).

EO 23 declares as unlawful the bringing into Cebu Province of any and all kinds of meat (chicken, beef or fish) and any kind of food product that has been stored in the same cold storage facility with pork, pork-related products and byproducts sourced from Luzon.

It also extends the ban on shipments of live hogs, pork, pork-related products, by-products and boar semen from Luzon until June 30, 2020. The ban was originally to end this Dec. 28.

Dinah Gladys Oro, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 7 senior trade and industry development specialist, said ham products from local pork producers such as Virginia, Sunpride, Kings and Belcris are available to consumers.

The DTI, though, noted a 10 to 12 percent increase in the suggested retail price (SRP) of ham products from Virginia Farms Inc. compared to the same period last year.

From P169 last year, a 500-gram Virginia brick ham and pear-shaped ham now sells for P189 each. Its 800-gram pear-shaped ham now goes for P259 from P230 in 2018. A kilo of Virginia pear-shaped ham is now P299 from only P270 last year. The season’s delight ham is now P409 from P370 in 2018.

A kilo of Virginia jamon de bola, meanwhile, now costs P370 from only P329 last year.

Based on the DTI’s SRP, only Virginia has issued a price change in its ham products for 2018 and 2019.

Stanley Go, vice president for sales and marketing of Virginia Foods, said they support the Cebu Provincial Government’s extension of the ban on Luzon pork until June 2020. He said the industry was already hurting because of the threat of ASF. Go said misconceptions on ASF had led consumers to fear the virus even if it affects only hogs.

“Let us help each other as meat processors and at the same time hog raisers so we can overcome these challenging times,” he said.

John King, managing director of King’s Quality Foods Inc, owner of King’s Quality Food, told SunStar Cebu they have enough supply for the Christmas season.

“We would ensure that the prices and supply are stable while assuring the general public our processed meat is safe for consumption. Obviously, if the cost of raw materials whether imported or locally sourced is constantly increasing for all processors, we can slowly adjust the prices according to the market leaders. In addition, we have enough supply for the Christmas season to cater to the growing demands in Cebu and the Visayas region since we have procured our meat supply before the ASF outbreak,” he said in a statement.

Faye Delima, marketing supervisor of Belcris Food Inc., said they already increased their prices even before the ASF issue and had no plans of increasing these further.

“Our standard price for our ham which was P394 last year is now P446. We also increased our production to a hundred percent. Supply is stable and sufficient,” she said.

As for other Noche Buena items, the SRP for fruit cocktails has also increased by from 0.55 percent to three percent. But Edam keso de bola” saw a 5.24 percent drop in its SRP, while a tomato sauce brand saw a 3.39 percent decrease in price.

Oro said DTI will issue a letter of inquiry before it sends out a show cause order to establishments that will be caught selling Noche Buena items at prices exceeding the SRP. (HBL, JOB / RTF)