A new meat processing facility has opened its doors for operation in the hills of Babeldaob, Palau’s largest island, aimed at reducing reliance on imported pork products by raising the availability of local supplies.
Palau’s national and traditional leaders, joined by Taiwan’s ambassador to Palau, took part in the ribbon cutting ceremony on Feb. 9, to mark the opening of the Palau National Slaughterhouse in Olsireked, Ngchesar. The ceremony was also attended by state governors, members of the local farmers association, and other stakeholders.
Ribbon-cutting to mark the opening of the Palau National Slaughterhouse.
The slaughterhouse is a component of the Animal Production Project, a technical assistance project by the government of Taiwan, which was created in 2011 with a view to promoting food security in Palau through producing local pork and poultry products. The facility will operate under the Animal Production Project of the Bureau of Agriculture in partnership with the Taiwan embassy in a mission to enhance Palau’s food security with locally produced and hygienically processed pork products. As part of the project, four young local individuals flew to Taiwan to be trained and will operate the facility.
Palau farmers have been limited as meat products such as pork found in stores, hotels and restaurants are mostly imported based on established quality standards. However, the slaughterhouse will allow more options instead of a market confined to cultural and personal consumption. Palau has been importing over $500,000 worth or the equivalent to 1,000 hogs per year, not including processed pork products.
Umiich Sengebau, Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism, said that encouraging the production of local pork products requires government subsidy to ease competition with mass production international suppliers. The Palau National Congress is currently deliberating legislation to impose an import tax of 5 percent on all pork products or food products produced from pork.
“This project can reduce pork importation while encouraging local pork production with the money going to local farmers,” Minister Sengebau said at the ceremony.
The slaughterhouse will be available for local farmers for use in cutting up their hogs into different pork products. For a $25 fee, it’ll take up to 45 minutes to turn a hog into cut pieces.
The traditional way of slaughtering the pig increases the risk of contact with pathogens carrying insects and the chance to spoil under the warm weather.
“It is vital to the quality of meat products,” said Professor Liang-Chou Hsia in his presentation at the ribbon cutting. Dr. Hsia has been part of the slaughterhouse project from the beginning.
Business establishments are waiting for quality certification before they can stock up on local pork meat.
“We are just waiting to try the local products,” said Peter Gayman, General Manager of the Payless grocery store.
Quality standards - Palau Agriculture Standards - are still being reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office. The standards would assure top quality pork coming from hogs raised by local farmers, based on standards required by the Bureau of Agriculture. It further assures that the hogs are processed in a proper and hygienic way and fed with a balanced and nutritious formula feed free from antibiotics, hormone, and chemical preservatives.
“While tourism will always be our primary economic sector, we must also continue our efforts to diversify our economy, protect our food security, and honor our commitments to sustainable livelihoods. That is why the Bureau of Agriculture is moving forward with the construction of a slaughterhouse,” President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr said in his State of the Republic Address last year.
The future of the slaughterhouse looks encouraging as the animal production project presently couldn’t provide enough piglets for farms due to shortages of hog house. Currently breeding improvement is in its third generation. By the fifth generation, the hog species would be stabilized and continue to produce high performance off-spring.