Hog, poultry groups tell DA to honor vow to keep imports downPhilippine Daily Inquirer
DAGUPAN CITY—Hog and poultry raisers in the country said they will hold Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to his promise that government will not lift tariffs on imported meat products as a concession in its bid to extend policy that allows it to limit rice imports.
The policy is called quantitative restrictions (QR), which the World Trade Organization (WTO) has allowed to be enforced for a limited time by developing countries as they gradually open up their markets.
The rice QR allowed the Philippines to impose higher tariffs on rice imports beyond the minimum access volume of 350,000 metric tons as prescribed by the free trade agreement. But the rice QR for imported rice lapsed in June.
Last year, the Philippines petitioned WTO to extend the QR until 2015.
“We are thankful to Alcala for his position not to use the livestock and poultry sectors … in renegotiating for another extension of the country’s QR on rice imports,” said Rosendo So, chair of the party-list group Abono.
So said easing the tariff on imported meat endangers the local backyard hog industry as cheap imported meat would flood the country’s wet markets.
In a statement, Daniel Javellana Jr., chair of the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc., objected to the reduction of tariff rates for imported frozen meat from between 30 and 40 percent to 5 percent.
“We categorically and formally state our opposition to this reduction in tariff rates as a tradeoff for the extension of the rice special treatment or quantitative restriction. Any reduction in the current tariff rates will substantially affect the viability of the hog industry,” he said.
He said this means prime cuts “can be imported legally and sold in wet markets at (prices) 25 to 35 percent less than locally sourced meat.”
He said the entry of imported meat in wet markets proved to be disastrous to the industry, especially the backyard hog raisers.
“Many commercial farms started to depopulate their breeding stock as they foresaw further losses down the line as cheaper imported meat continued to push down prices to unreasonably low and unprofitable levels,” he said.
So, who is also director of the Swine Development Council, said the country’s livestock and poultry sectors have a combined production value of P320 billion annually.
He said backyard hog raisers want the government to restore tariff on imported offal (low-grade meat parts like innards) to between 35 and 40 percent to discourage pork smuggling.
“Intentionally declaring prime meat as offal to avail of lower tariffs has been the modus operandi of meat smugglers,” he said. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon