"The prospects of swine industry in the Philippines"

By Henrylito Tacio

Marid Agribusiness Magazine


“Swine producers who use sound practices of breeding, feeding, and management usually make a profit.” – United States Department of Agriculture


Pork, the culinary name for meat from the domestic pig, is one of the most commonly consumed meats worldwide.  It is eaten both freshly cooked and preserved. Curing extends the shelf life of the pork products. Hams, smoked pork, gammon, bacon and sausage are examples of preserved pork.

            In the Philippines, like in other Asian countries, the pork is preferred over beef for economic and aesthetic reasons; the pig is easy to feed and is not used for labor. The colors of the meat and the fat of pork are regarded as more appetizing, while the taste and smell are described as sweeter and cleaner. It is also considered easier to digest. In rural provinces, lechon (roasted pig) is a popular tradition shared to celebrate important occasion and to form bonding.

            Despite being almost exclusively without government subsidy, the swine industry is the second leading contributor to Philippine agriculture – after rice.  “The strong growth in demand for pork has the potential to increase income opportunities and alleviate poverty among rural and agricultural households in the Philippines, where rural poverty remains high,” notes a position paper.

            About 71% of the swine population are raised in backyard farms while 29% are in commercial farms.  “In almost every rural household in the Philippines, swine raising is a very popular enterprise,” says Roy C. Alimoane, the director of the Davao-based Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) Foundation, Inc.

            After all, no other backyard animal has the same versatility as the swine.  In the past, a farm family almost always invested their wealth in a pig.   After all, out from pigs you can get pork, bacon, and sausage.  They also acted as refuse bin, eating all the scraps and family’s leftovers.  When asked if the head of the family has any money, the usual reply is: “I don’t have.  All my money is in the pig.”

            When people stopped raising pigs, they made a replica where they could “put their money in.”  In the time, the practice of saving money in a pig came into existence and was called as “piggy bank.”

            There are several breeds of swine available in the market today that can be raised in the backyard or commercially.  If you intend to sell pigs within the reach of the buying public, then crossbreeds should be produced or perhaps, grades (using local or native pigs) ranging from 50-90 purity.

            “Pure breeds usually command a high price in the local market circles for reason of carrying desirable characters having high commercial value,” wrote Benjamin J. Samala in Profitable Swine Management Practices.

            “Characters like rapid and economical gains or growth rate, early maturity, carcass quality, litter size, etc., have been fixed in the various breeds of pigs.  Local or native pigs do not carry or possess of such good characters, hence their commercial values are much lower by way of comparison with the improved pigs,” Samala wrote.

            Among the common pure breeds raised in the country are: Large White (Yorkshire), Landrace, Duroc, and Pietrain.  Large White is known for its good mothering ability and large litter size. Landrace is also noted for its mothering ability and prolificacy.

            Duroc is considered a superior breed in terms of growth and feed efficiency.  Pietrain is known for its good muscle development in the ham, loin, and shoulder with very thin backfat.  

            On the other hand, farmers raising tilapia can optimize production in their fishponds by incorporating pigs.  “The raising of pigs can profitably be blended with fish culture by constructing animal housing units on the pond embankment or over the pond in such a way that the wastes are directly drained into the pond,” explains Alimoane.

            By the way, swine is not only for eating and a possible solution to financial woes.  In fact, pigs are very important in medicine.  Their heart valves, especially treated and preserved, can be surgically implanted into humans to replace heart valves weakened by disease and injury.   Pig pancreas glands are an important source of insulin hormone used in the treatment of diabetes.

            Raising swine is a profitable venture.  After all, there is a growing domestic market, increasing demand to meet increasing per capita consumption of a continuously growing human population.

            The Philippines Recommends for Pork Production enumerates several strengths of the country’s swine industry.  These are: relatively large, stable and continuously increasing pig population that is well distributed throughout the country, large and continuously increasing domestic market for pork, high utilization of pork relative to other animal products, and well-organized private industry players.

            Other strengths of swine industry include easy access to good genetics and state-of-the-art technologies on swine production, feed milling, and other related activities from both local and foreign sources.  Likewise, entrepreneurs, farm managers, and practitioners are technically equipped.

            Meanwhile, “backyard swine raising is a good way to augment your income,” says John Paul Pangilinan, feeds marketing manager of Pilmico Animal Nutrition Corporation (Pilmico).  “It takes very little effort to put up a backyard piggery.  In fact, people in the rural areas can raise a pig or two in a small space.”

            The increasing meat consumption, particularly pork, has driven Pilmico to scale up backyard swine raising in the country.  “Seventy percent of hog raisers in the Philippines are backyard,” notes Hendel Cabral, Pilmico vice president for sales and sales support.

            Based on the company’s assessment, they found out that most of those who raise livestock are deterred by lack of capital and technical knowledge.  “We are here to change that,” points out Pilmico president Sabin M. Aboitiz.

            Pilmico launched the Diamond Program to help its customers’ partner for growth by educating them on proper livestock backyard raising.  “The program is an integrated approach towards successful swine farming anchored on the four pillars of complete health care, breeding and genetics, sound management and excellent nutrition,” explains Pangilinan.

            According to Pangilinan, Pilmico specifically provides solutions related to excellent nutrition “although we can never stress enough the importance of the three other pillars since we also maintain our swine farm operations,” he says.  “Thus, we also translate our best practices into small-scale backyard versions.”

            Feeds constitute almost 80 percent of the production expenses of swine raising.  “For this reason, it is highly important that economical as well as nutritionally balanced diets are provided during all phase of the life cycle,” wrote W.G. Pond and J.H. Maner, authors of Swine Production in Temperate and Tropical Environments.

            “The pigs should be given rations appropriate for their ages and their physiological conditions,” says Alimoane.  “If these are considered, good animal performance is ensured and unnecessary expenses are avoided.  In addition, punctuality and regularity of feeding will have to be observed strictly.”

            Hog concentrates – which provide protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals – are given as a major feed.  Sweet potato tops, kangkong, and other green leafy feeds are to be given only as supplements.  Fresh leftover from the kitchen are good food for the pigs.  They may be rice or corn, gills and entrails of fish, papaya and banana peelings, and other scraps.

            Although pork consumption in the country has gone up, the number of backyard swine raisers has gone down.  Statistics show an 8% decline from 9.8 million backyard raisers in 2008 to only eight million in 2013.

            “We have noticed that a lot of backyard raisers have the capacity and the facility to raise pigs but a substantial number are vacant,” noted Cabral.  “Then tend to get discouraged once their backyard farms do not yield.”

            During the recent Pilmico Poultry and Livestock Expo held in Lingayen, Pangasinan, it was discovered that most backyard raisers don’t have proper knowledge and skill about nutrition and management – even the maintenance of their facilities.

            Under the upcoming Swine Project’s trial period, the company will choose a number of livestock backyard raisers who will qualify as recipients of financing for both feeds and piglets, which they will raise into full-sized market hogs.

            “Once ready, these will be sold together with more than 6,000 marketable hogs from Pilmico's own farm that it sells monthly,” Cabral said.

            He said the pilot study will run for about six months to a year to give the feeds producer enough time to assess the performance parameters of the pigs on a backyard level and identify areas for improvement.

            According to Cabral, only 300 pigs monthly will be disseminated for growing to produce the market and a minimum of about 100 to 200 on the sow level for breeding.

            Pilmico, a subsidiary of Pilmico Foods Corp., hopes that through this project and its Diamond Program, it can contribute to propping up hog production and pork supply in the country. Currently, it produces 430,000 metric tons (MT) of feeds annually (240,000 MT from its factory in Iligan and another 190,000 MT from Tarlac).

            “As long as we continue to consume pork and poultry and as long as Filipinos with sufficient disposable income remain to be entrepreneurial and perceive backyard hog raising as a viable source of extra income, the feeds industry will do just fine,” concludes Pangilinan.

            Unknowingly, the swine industry is facing some weaknesses.  For instance, there is an inadequate national program for disease prevention.

            “About 20% of the value of swine production is due to diseases, estimated at P107.6 billion, of which about 19% is lost due to gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases,” wrote Dr. Aleli A. Collado in an article.

            Other weaknesses include: inefficient and inadequate technical and market information services, high overhead costs both in swine production and in feed milling, and presence of foot-and-mouth disease in some major swine-producing regions.

            The country’s swine industry is also facing some threats.  There is currently flooding or dumping of cheap pork and other meat products from other countries.  There is also an increase control of traders and butchers on pricing of live slaughter pigs.

            Other threats are: irrational implementation of rules and policies on environmental protection and industrialization and urbanization of current swine-production areas.

            The domestic pig is usually given the scientific name Sus scrofa, although some authors call it S. domesticus, reserving S. scrofa for the wild boar. History records showed that swine was domesticated approximately 5,000 to 7,000 years ago.

            Pigs appear in the traditional art and literature of many societies, where they sometimes carry religious symbolism. In Asia the wild boar is one of twelve animal images comprising the Chinese zodiac, while in Europe the boar represents a standard charge in heraldry.

            Pigs are frequently alluded to in proverbs, metaphors, idioms, and folk art.  Sir Winston Churchill once said: “I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” American president Bill Clinton also said: “You can put wings on a pig, but you don’t make it an eagle.”