Meat official denies being fired, goes on leave to allow probe
MANILA, Philippines – Bureau of Animal Industry Director Efren Nuestro denied Friday that he had been fired from his job after pork producers complained about his alleged inaction on the problem of meat smuggling.
Nuestro clarified that he was taking an indefinite leave from his post to allow Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to investigate the claims against him.
“During this contentious time, I will be taking a leave of absence and open myself for investigation by proper authorities if I am truly the person to suffer the consequences,” Nuestro said.
Nuestro issued the statement after pork producers spread word that he had been fired for his failure to stop the smuggling of meat. The pork and poultry sectors also noted that there has been a drop in the farm gate prices of locally produced meat and poultry.
Last week, pork producers called a two-day pork holiday, affecting the supply of pork in public markets, to protest the smuggling of meat which they said has been killing the local industry since smuggled meat is usually sold at lower prices.
Nuestro said smuggling had been going on even before he became the chief of BAI. “When I assumed my office in 2010, it was already the all time high in the volume of pork and broiler importation but coincidentally declining after a year of my term,” he said.
The BAI chief said he has requested the congressional committee on agriculture and food to investigate the smuggling problem and unscrupulous importers and traders.
The private sector should invest in upgrading their slaughterhouses and facilities to better respond to market demands, Nuestro said. Meat processors, he said, import pork as the local industry could not meet their requirements.
According to BAI data, hog production was nearly flat in the last three years. Last year, swine output rose by 1.1 percent to 1.9 million metric tons while poultry grew by 4 percent to 1.4 million tons from 2010’s 1.3 million tons.
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