Hog raisers on Thursday warned of a longer pork holiday, this one to last five days, if repeated complaints against the rampant smuggling of meat remained unheeded by the government.
They want the government to protect their sector and are seeking a dialogue with President Benigno Aquino III and officials of the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Customs, Department of Finance, and Department of Trade and Industry.
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.
Nicanor Briones, a House party-list member representing the Agriculture Sector Alliance of the Philippines and a member of the Swine Development Council, said a longer pork holiday might be in order if their pleas are not heeded.
“We may have a five-day minimum pig holiday led by backyard pig raisers. That will happen soon if we do not see the Bureau of Customs taking us seriously,” Briones told a press conference.
The poultry industry may decide to join the holiday, but not for the entire five days since they stand to lose more the longer they do not sell their products, said Gregorio San Diego Jr. of the United Broilers Raisers Association.
Briones said recent changes in the leadership at the agriculture department’s National Meat Inspection Service and Bureau of Animal Industry may help improve conditions at these agencies to the benefit of meat producers. BAI chief Efren Nuestro and NMIS chief Jane Bacayo have been relieved of their posts.
But he said industry stakeholders would also want to see changes at the Bureau of Customs, which is in charge of policing imports.
P8 billion in losses
Pork producers are estimated to have suffered some P8 billion in losses from July to February this year due to smuggling.
Edwin Chen of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines said one of the things the government could do is to purge the list of meat importers.
He said some of those on the list are dummy corporations whose addresses are nonexistent. Some have a paid-up capital of only P30,000 in their registration papers, but are able to import millions of kilograms of meat.
Customs officials should also be vigilant against the misdeclaration of imports, Chen said. Some importers have been declaring prime cuts of meat as fat, offal and skin to avoid paying higher tariff rates, since the latter only has a tariff of five percent, he said. Prime cuts, on the other hand, have a 35-percent tariff.
“If we don’t keep an eye on this, this will kill the local industry,” Chen said.
The Swine Development Council said the government has lost about P3.7 billion in customs and tariff duties because the importers pay only the five-percent tariff instead of the 35 percent.
Rosendo So of the Swine Development Council also said another practice that is killing the industry is the underdeclaration of the value of imported meat. Officials have to check the declared price against the reference prices stated by the Department of Agriculture, said So.
Influx of imported meat
According to Chen, the country’s meat imports have shot up in the past two years, from 50 million kilograms to 178 million kilograms, “and it’s not because of any shortage in the local supply.”
“We have ample supply here. The local producers can satisfy the needs of the country,” he said, adding that the influx of imported meat is the reason that farmgate prices have plummeted.
The hog raisers also sought the repeal of the two administrative orders from the Department of Agriculture that they said tended to favor meat importers, to the detriment of local producers.